College renames gymnasium after celebrated basketball coach

Jerry C. Johnson
Jerry C. Johnson

(WMC-TV) – LeMoyne-Owen College honored long time basketball coach Jerry Johnson in a way he will remember forever.

Jerry C. Johnson is a living legend in Memphis basketball. As the Head Coach at LeMoyne-Owen College for 46 years, he guided the Magicians to more than 800 wins and the only men's basketball NCAA National Championship in Tennessee history.

But his enduring legacy extends well beyond the basketball court.

Jerry C. Johnson's name has long gone hand-in-hand with LeMoyne-Owen College basketball.

On Thursday, the school made that official when it renamed its gymnasium after the iconic coach.

"It means that what he has done is important to or will be remembered by the generations that come after him, and I think that's all we can ask for in life," said Jerry Johnson, Jr.

Johnson's 46 years as head coach, 800 plus wins, and one national championship speak for themselves.

But his greatest contributions are innumerable.

"He has touched so many people, and that's his legacy. The success those people have gone on to have because of his influence," said William Anderson, LeMoyne-Owen men's basketball coach.

Johnson gave an impassioned 15 minute speech, reminiscing on the time he coached through a bomb threat. He also spoke of the greatest honor he received at LeMoyne Owen, the T.R. McLemore faculty award in 1982.

"The basketball is alright, the national championship is alright, but that faculty award, that came from the faculty here and that's very important," said Jerry C. Johnson.

As both teacher and coach, Johnson embodied everything LeMoyne-Owen College stands for.

"It's about people who are willing to work hard, with less resources, but in the end still be successful, and he's the epitome of that for us," said Anderson.

And now that legacy will not soon be forgotten.

The renaming of the gymnasium was just the start of Jerry C. Johnson Sports Weekend at LeMoyne-Owen College.

The rest of the weekend includes a suits and sneakers birthday celebration for Johnson, and a private showing of the documentary "First Forgotten champions: The Legacy of Jerry Johnson."

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