Hundreds gathered at Indiana Baptist Church on Friday evening to celebrate the life of a man whose history dates back in the early years of his life growing up in Troy, Alabama. And on Saturday, May 12th, hundreds filled the temple at St. Mark Baptist Church to say their last goodbyes to a man so deserving of such respect and love.
Pastor Johnson migrated to Toledo in 1955 with the sole intent to serve a community that he had little knowledge of and a people that he knew not of. However, that soon changed as he became rooted and grounded in Toledo and made himself known as a man of action.
In an interview with him in December, 2015, as one of the first to be in the Interfaith Gazette Newspaper upon its inception, he shared many intimate stories about people who had become members of his congregation, Pastors in which he had become co-laborers in the gospel with, politicians whom he had sat face to face with, and those whom he had come to know just through his bigger than life personality when he met the working class people on the street, daring to not leave them the same way that he found them.
This celebration of life for this great man of God, who was a friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served the St. Mark Baptist Church, of which he founded, for 62 years. He was also one of the longest serving Pastors in the country at one church. Many showed their respect with words of comfort, stories about their relationship with Pastor Johnson, and conversations that they had remembered with him. Local politicians, Friends, Cohorts in the gospel, all shared in the Memorial Service at Indiana Baptist Church. Remarks were given by Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Commissioner Pete Gerken, Sheriff JohnTharp, Auditor Anita Lopez, Teresa Gabriel of Board of Elections, Lt. John Hicklin Of TPS, Representative Mike Ashford, Councilman Tyrone Riley, and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Praise and Worship was conducted by granddaughter Arielle Johnson; selections by Darius Coleman and grandson Tawann Gaston. Pastors Fred Alexander, Jr. from Albion, Mi. shared stories of growing up with his father and Pastor Johnson as close friends. He brought a burst of laughter when he shared that he wore Pastor I. J.’s suit when he was in the eight grade, size was the notion of the joke. Pastor James Willis provided the prayer of comfort; Ministers from St. Mark read the Old and New Testament scriptures. The Officiants were Pastor Willie Perryman of Jerusalem Baptist Church and Dr. John Roberts, Host Pastor.
Persons unable to attend the Memorial Service sent letters of consolation and condolences. They were Ohio State Senator Edna Brown and U. S. Senator Sherrod Brown. The funeral took place on Saturday at St. Mark where Pastor Charles Jones of the Christian Temple Baptist Church was the Eulogist. The service was truly one of celebration of the life of a man well deserving of its kind. Songs of inspiration and words of comfort to the family served to remind each one in attendance of the “greatness of this man”.
We pay homage and tribute to Pastor Rev. Dr. I. J. Johnson. He served his community and the people of God very well. We pray continued blessings upon First Lady Johnson, Co-Pastor Curly Johnson and family, and the St. Mark Church Family as they forge ahead during this time. May God bless the fruit of his labor, as we know that it has not and will not be in vain!