James G. Johnson Jr. is Cumberland’s latest Hall of Fame inductee

Published 1:41 am Saturday, September 9, 2023

Cumberland County Public Schools (CuCPS) has added another name to their Alumni Hall of Fame. The district announced that James G. Johnson Jr. is the newest member. 

The Alumni Hall of Fame was established to honor former Cumberland County Public School graduates who have excelled or distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional success, and who have made significant contributions to society, including Cumberland County Public Schools. In order to be considered for this award, a nominee must be a graduate of CuCPS and meet the following criteria: 

• Made exceptional accomplishments or was recognized for leadership in chosen field.

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• Made significant contributions to society and/or Cumberland County Public Schools.

• Demonstrated service in local, state, or national affairs.

• Served as an outstanding role model for future students.

More about James Johnson 

Johnson is an educator, athlete, and coach. He graduated from Luther P. Jackson  High School in Cumberland and then attended Virginia State University on a track scholarship, where he set records as a sprinter. During his time running track there in 1962, he defeated the world record holder and National AAU Champion in the 60-yard dash at Madison Square Garden in New York. In 1964 he became the first African American to run in an indoor track meet in the Richmond Arena as he represented VSU. 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education, he became a physical education teacher and coach at LPJ. He coached basketball, baseball, and track from 1965-1968. He was a highly regarded head basketball coach with an impressive record. After school consolidation in 1968-69, he became the first African American Cumberland High School coach as well as the first African American coach in the James River District. He continued his impressive winning record. He was inducted into the VSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, named the Grand Marshall of the Cumberland Christmas Parade in 2019, and inducted into the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame in 2022.

Johnson was an educator at Cumberland High School, serving in a variety of positions. First, he was a teacher and a coach, assisting with basketball, baseball, and track. After obtaining his Master of Science degree in Administration and Supervision, he served in other positions. He was Athletic Director, Director of Transportation, Cumberland Elementary School Assistant Principal, CCES Principal, CMS principal, Director of Vocational Education, Principal of GED Night School, and CHS Principal. He was active in the community and volunteered on the Cumberland Fire & Rescue Squad. 

Johnson stays involved

Johnson remains active in local affairs. In addition to being a member of NAACP and Tear Wallet Baptist Church, he works with the Cumberland High School Basketball Alumni Committee which continues to provide recognition and scholarships to athletes.

Coach Johnson provided support and encouragement to student athletes and encouraged them to be all that they could be. 

“I wanted to try and mold these young men into being better people and really understanding things going on in life,” Johnson said.  

As a school administrator, he was known for being firm but fair, and he influenced, inspired, and encouraged students to study and do their best. He said he wanted to be a role model to show students what is possible with hard work and determination.