Clinton City Schools could have made no better selection than Dale Johnson to receive its first-ever Pivotal Dark Horse award, an accolade meant to honor those who make a tremendous impact on the school system and its students.
There is no one likely to better fit the bill than Johnson, a man who has spent the better part of his life championing causes that have benefited the schools, the students and by virtue of both, the city, itself.
A student-athlete in the early 1960s, Johnson has always taken great pride in his alma mater and often regaled those he’d come in contact with about the many stories of his high school days and those he recognized as quality athletes on any number of teams through those years.
But his stories didn’t stop with his years at Clinton High. Not even close. Johnson could take with some authority about any number of teams and any number of athletes, many he paid personal attention to through the years, helping them in whatever way he could. Many of those became part of Johnson and wife Dianne’s extended family.
It wasn’t just athletes either. It would be difficult, really, to count the number of young men and women Johnson had a hand in helping, particularly since he wasn’t big on talking about the part he played in their life, opting instead to talk about the individual youth and his or her accomplishments while remaining in the shadows rooting for them.
Over 50 years, Johnson has had his hand in supporting the school system, whether by promoting it across the state or nation or digging in and helping to raise needed money for whatever cause arose.
Dark Horse Stadium is one of many Johnson projects, as is the current high school. In fact, no one can forget the 2009 whirlwind fundraising campaign Johnson and then law partner Doug Parson waged, raising $2.4 million in four months.
Johnson and Parsons spearheaded the efforts to ensure a new high school was built, but their tenacity in raising the additional dollars allowed for construction of additional classrooms and an auxiliary gym.
For Johnson, it was his way of helping the city and the school system he loves so much. For the community looking in, it was a testament to Johnson’s character and his intent to put words behind his actions.
Last week, with hundreds of people gathered to say thank you and congratulations, Clinton City Schools tried to give back to Johnson by honoring him with this very special award.
It was an apt tribute, particularly since it gave Johnson an opportunity to spend time with so many of his friends and admirers, allowing them all an opportunity to say thanks and lavish praise on a man who often shied away from it.
We join others in thanking Johnson for the many acts of kindness he has shown to our city, Clinton High and dozens upon dozens of students. We thank him, too, for setting an example of giving that we hope others will follow.
Johnson has always been known around town as Mr. Clinton. It’s easy to see why.