New Haven mayor dies

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Landmark News Service

New Haven Mayor Bobby Johnson died Thursday after an illness following surgery.

City Clerk Linda Mattingly said he passed away around noon at Flaget Memorial Hospital.

He was in his fourth year as mayor after having served two terms on the New Haven Board of Commissioners.

He had also been the city’s police chief for 17 years.

“He did a great job as mayor,” Mattingly said. “He’s going to be sadly missed by our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”

His wife, Guyula Johnson, survives him. They have four daughters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Johnson was a member of St. Catherine Catholic Church in New Haven, was a longtime member of the Optimist Club and was involved in many community projects, Mattingly said.

Frank Hall, chief of the Rolling Fork Fire Department, said Johnson was a volunteer firefighter for both the New Haven and Rolling Fork departments from the time he was a teenager until about 10 years ago.

He was president of the board of the Rolling Fork department until his election as mayor in 2010.

He also operated an ambulance service under contract with the county in the 1970s and at different times was the owner of a restaurant, barbershop and sporting goods store. He was also a school bus driver.

Johnson was a reliable firefighter, because with so many interests, he was almost always there, Hall said.

“Bobby spent most of his life here making (New Haven) a better community,” he said.

He was a “firm believer” that an individual could make a difference if only he would “step forward and work at it, and he was one of those people who would do that,” Hall said.

County Judge-Executive Dean Watts issued an order Tuesday that flags be lowered to half staff in honor of Johnson until sunset on the day of his burial.

“I’d known Bobby a long time,” Watts said. “He was a quiet individual who knew how to handle people. In our tenure together, Bobby was real good to work with. He understood the costs of doing business, and that was most appreciated.”

“He wasn’t flashy. He was a very simple, get-the-job-done type of person,” he said.