Johns, Henry LeRoy

2/22/1985

November 12, 1896 - February 22, 1985
 
Henry LeRoy Johns was born November 12, 1896, in Opelousas, Louisiana to Hope Foster Johns and the Reverend Henry S. Johns. During his the boyhood the family lived in several Louisiana towns where his father served appointments to Methodist churches. When Roy was 10, his mother died and his father accepted the position of chaplain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Baton Rouge, which he held for the next 20 years. When Roy’s father married Stella Bonner of Lufkin, Texas, stepson and stepmother quickly developed a strong and affectionate relationship, which was to continue for the rest of their lives. As Roy liked to say, he was lucky in having two beloved mothers: ‘‘one for my childhood and one for my youth.”
Roy Johns graduated in 1913 from Baton Rouge High School and in 1917 from Louisiana State University, where he served as editor of the college newspaper, The Reveille. As a student he took an active role in the Methodist Church and the Epworth League.
After serving in the United States Navy as an ensign in World War I, he attended graduate school at Emory University, receiving in 1921 the Master of Arts in theology. On June 14, 1921, he married Persis Means of Ida, Louisiana, herself a recent graduate of LSU.
He was accepted into the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church on trial that same year and in full connection in 1923. Churches he served included Cedar Grove, Shreveport, First Church, Natchitoches; Carrolton and Rayne Memorial in New Orleans; First Church, Lake Charles; and First Church, Monroe. He served as District Superintendent of the Monroe District in the 1930s and later as District Superintendent of the New Orleans District. During the post World War II, years he was instrumental in founding eight new Methodist churches in the New Orleans area. In 1955 he was elected a staff member of the National Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, with the initial responsibility of establishing the Alaska Methodist College in Anchorage, Alaska. Subsequently he became director of church extension for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church, a position he held until his retirement in 1965. Then returning to Monroe to live he became Pastor Emeritus of First United Methodist Church, Monroe
Dr. Johns was a delegate to the last general conference of the former Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1939 and to the Uniting Conference of Methodism in 1939. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Centenary College. He served on the board of the Methodist Children’s Home, Ruston; was president of the board of the Methodist Home Hospital in New Orleans; and was a lifetime member of the board of trustees of Centenary College. He was president of the New Orleans Council of Churches
This record speaks to H. L. John’s industry and vision. But the bare stretch of years must be filled out and brought alive by the memories that friends and family have of him: his shrewd eye and quick humor; his dignity combined with an utter lack of pretension; his boundless belief in others’ capacity to keep pace with his energies; his love of classical music, roses and daylilies, fishing and history; and even the flare of his temper. He was a husband in an exemplary, mutually strengthening, mutually inspiring marriage. He was a father whom the three children, Persis, Roy and Hope, could both lean on and laugh with; someone to bring questions to, who might leave them with even more thoughtful questions; a goer and a doer, as well as a steady presence to come home to. To one of his ten grandchildren, he was a tall suited figure whom even grownups seemed to look up to but who nonetheless found time to send thoughtful letters to a five-year-old -- always typed, and signed in a flourish with his family nickname, ‘‘Peppy.’’
H. L. Johns died at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Alexandria on February 22, 1985, having suffered a gradually debilitating illness during the last years of his life. Even at his lowest ebb of strength, though, the penetrating soul and mind would occasionally flash through. And at those moments, those around him noted, his remarks were always directed at the needs and well being of others. His deepest and most instinct was for service.
Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1985; p. 248-249 By Hope Elizabeth Norman Coulter