March 15, 2021
Emmie Stewart Carlton Johnson, 91, died peacefully at home the afternoon of Monday, November 30, 2020, one block from her birthplace in Oxford, Georgia. The daughter of educators Professor W. A. ¨Squire¨ Carlton and Annie Lou Bartlett Carlton, her early life was part of the close faculty community at what is now called Oxford College of Emory University. She was the namesake of Miss Emmie Stewart, who provided room, board, and genuine inspiration for Emory students, including Emmie’s father Squire, in the time before dormitories. Every phase of Emmie´s life, including name, education, work, her own family, and her friendships reflected the many generational and personal connections to the Methodist Church, and a deep commitment to Christ and the Christian life.
Her childhood revolved around family, extended family, older sister Anne, Allen Memorial Methodist Church, and life at the college campus tennis courts, including lessons from tennis mentor (Mary) Louise Fowler. Emmie learned to read at the ages of three and four, skipped kindergarten, and started public school in Covington at the age of five. During high school, she played women’s varsity basketball, tennis with the all-male Emory college students, and became the youth president of the North Georgia Annual Conference (at Camp Glisson). She loved to tell stories about visiting grandparents in Molena, Ga. and Arcadia, Fla., including the very rich relationships developed with cousins, and aunts and uncles that lasted her entire life. Covington High just had 11 grades, so at age 15 Emmie entered Wesleyan College in Macon and quickly became the unbeaten tennis champ in intramural competition.
Young Adult Years
Though she majored in English at Wesleyan College, Emmie began to work at Mulberry Street Methodist as a youth director and counselor along with Frances Smith (Ramsey), and Emily Britton (Parker). During her junior and senior college years, Emmie Carlton became the morning worship pianist at the small Martha Bowman Methodist Church in the nearby Howard Community. Along the way, at a Methodist youth sub-district meeting in Macon, she met Thomas Johnson. Though she was two years ahead in education, Emmie and Thomas were the same age and shared a lifelong commitment to Christ and the Christian faith (Methodist style), and . . . a deep love of recreational, but competitive tennis in Macon, at Emory U, Savannah and on until retirement.
After Wesleyan College graduation in 1949, Emmie Carlton attended Emory University, earned a master's degree in Christian Education, and then became the Director of Christian Education at Sam Jones Memorial Methodist Church in Cartersville, Ga. During this time, Emmie´s sister Anne married a Methodist minister, Richard E. Blanchard, who joined the Florida Annual Conference.
Young Married Life
In 1951, Emmie married Thomas, by then a Candler School of Theology student called Tom, who entered the ministry of the South Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Church after serving a student appointment as an associate pastor in Carrollton, Ga. Though they were in Carrollton on the weekends, for a year during the week she taught public school at Medlock Elementary School in Decatur. In a later day or generation, Emmie likely would have become an ordained minister herself, but she dedicated herself to being a most effective partner in ministry wherever her beloved Thomas was appointed and served.
Adult and Family Life
After Thomas finished at the Candler School of Theology, Martha Bowman Methodist Church in Macon initially refused the appointment of the young, inexperienced preacher of Tom H. Johnson – until the pastor parish relations committee learned that their former morning pianist, Miss Emmie, would be the incoming spouse. With great humor and relief, the young couple moved to the Martha Bowman parsonage on Bass Road and their first two children, Tom, Jr., and Nancy, were born in Macon. After a move to Chatham County, Betsy was born in Savannah.
The Methodist system in South Georgia of the 1950s and 60s moved the ministers every three to five years, the average being four years. So, Emmie´s family years meant moving fairly often, on up to retirement – to Bloomingdale/Meldrim, White Bluff in Chatham County, Baxley, Valdosta, Statesboro, Perry, Thomasville, Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons, and Waycross.
Everywhere Emmie lived and served in ministry partnership with Thomas she is remembered as being kind, unfailingly gracious, and in older years, as a sweet person. Early on, Emmie and Thomas, after much deliberation, decided that she would not work in a church he was serving unless the local church had a genuine gap with no local person who could fill the spot. Still in her thirties, Emmie learned to play the organ, including pipe organs, and worked as pianist, and organist at White Bluff and Baxley, including stints as choir director and children’s choir director in Baxley. Children’s choir alums, now in their late sixties, remember those sessions with great fondness for the supportive encouragement they received.
Emmie’s children knew her to be loving, supportive, organized, and happy and cheerful, the great band parent, Scout parent, and church youth group parent. Perhaps the delight of her life was becoming a grandmother, and near the end of her life she was overjoyed to become a great-grandmother.
Social and Personal Concerns
A formative memory was that of operatic singer Marian Anderson being refused the use of Constitution Hall to sing My Country, ´Tis of Thee. As a young girl in segregated Oxford, Emmie’s personal friendships did not recognize racial boundaries and she was very sensitive to inequity due to race. She was not given to public pronouncements about society, but along with Thomas, she made the commitment that their children would attend public school systems, especially during the period of racial integration. In later years before retirement, Emmie led workshops through the United Methodist Women about nuclear disarmament, and the negative, devastating effects of atomic testing on Pacific Islanders, residents of New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, and U.S. military enlisted personnel.
When Thomas retired, they returned to her renovated home place in Oxford and Covington, Georgia. Together, they became quite active at Allen Memorial UMC, worked with the Oxford Historical Cemetery, the United Methodist Women, and regularly attended various Emory University functions. Their mutual love of flowers – roses, irises, camellias, daylilies and more – meant that their last 30 years together BLOSSOMED.
Emmie Stewart Carlton Johnson is survived by her husband Thomas; children Betsy (and John) Strauss, Nancy (and Jeff) Lawalin, and Tom, Jr. (and Mary Carolyn Pindar); grandchildren Evan Lawalin, Emmy Lawalin, Jesse Strauss, Russell Strauss, Melissa Strauss (and Ryan) O´Connor, and Thomas, III (and C´Lee) Johnson; great grandchildren Tegan, Jude, Noah and Caleb O´Connor; niece Carol Anne Blanchard (and O.C.) Hood, and great niece Katie Reid Hicks. She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Anne Carlton Blanchard, brother-in-law Richard E. Blanchard, Sr., nephew Richard E. Blanchard, Jr, and niece Emily Blanchard-Reid.
A graveside service for Mrs. Johnson will be held on the first day of spring, Saturday, March 20, 2021, 2 p.m., at Oxford Historical Cemetery, with Rev. Natalie Faulkner officiating. Friends may visit with the family at the graveside 30 minutes prior to service time, from 1:30 - 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, PO Box 117, Oxford, GA 30054; or, Epworth By The Sea, PO Box 20407, St. Simons Island, GA 31522.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, masks and social distancing are encouraged.