Jackie Johns, Garner council member for 36 years and first black member, has died

Garner Town Council member Jackie Johns died Sunday, Jan. 6, following a brief illness.
Garner Town Council member Jackie Johns died Sunday, Jan. 6, following a brief illness. Town of Garner

Jackie Johns, who served as Garner alderman and council member for 36 years, died Sunday after a brief illness at age 81.

Johns had three separate tenures in office and was Garner’s first and, so far, only African-American elected official, the town said in a news release.

“A true advocate for the people,” said Mayor Ronnie Williams, an alderman and council member since 1985 and mayor since 2005, in the release. “He was the people’s politician.”

Johns was the top vote getter in the three-way race for three council seats in 2015. Town Council members will appoint someone to finish his term, which expires in December.

Johns was first elected in 1973 and then served again from 1979 to 1983. In 1991, he was voted into office again, this time serving until his death.

“He has always spoken for the community,” Garner community activist Helen Phillips said in the release. “He was always trying to help people live better.”

Johns considered being among the town leaders who decided to buy the land that became Lake Benson Park one of his biggest achievements.

Three years ago, Johns called the Police Department’s new $4.5 million state-of-the-art building “the greatest thing to happen to Garner.” When he started on the council three decades earlier, he imagined something like the new, more visible building, he said at the time.

Johns was a deacon at Garner’s Springfield Baptist Church.

Carlton Gray Funeral and Cremation Services is handling arrangements, which are pending.

The Town Council planned to hold its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Town Hall.