Noted conservationist and Delta Wildlife founding member, Seymour Johnson, died Feb. 10 at the age of 87.
A true Delta ambassador, Johnson of Indianola, Miss., served as chairman or president of many local and national agricultural organizations including Delta Council, the Cotton Board, The Catfish Institute, and the American Soybean Association.
Johnson began farming in 1952 and ran his family’s Sunflower County, Miss.-based row crop operation for 50 years. When he wasn’t farming or driving national agricultural policy, he could often be found enjoying two of his favorite pastimes – bird watching and traveling.
An avid bird watcher, Johnson traveled to dozens of countries around the globe. One of his favorite bird-watching adventures was a trip to Antarctica. “It’s a beautiful place. The bird watching is fabulous. You can see all of the pelagic birds that stay at sea. There are birds out there that never come to land except to nest. There are hundreds of species, plus the whales, penguins, and seals,” he said in a 2004 Delta Business Journal interview.
“The scenery – with daylight all of the time – is spectacular, and the icebergs are amazing. It’s kind of surreal to drift through absolutely still water and see icebergs of all different colors, in all different directions.”
Johnson was born June 4, 1928, in Quincy, Ill., to Emily Seymour and Vivion Johnson. He grew up in Indianola, Miss., where he attended Indianola High School before graduating from Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. He attended the University of Mississippi, earned his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University, and earned a Master of Business Administration degree at Harvard Business School.
Because he felt it was his obligation to serve when asked, Johnson represented the Mississippi Delta’s interests time and time again, both locally and nationally. Among the many leadership roles Johnson held were director of the Board of Staplcotn and chairman of the Catfish Farmers of America. He also served as chairman of the board of directors of the Memphis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and was a member of the board of directors for Delta Western, Delta Pride, Betterfly, and Planters Bank and Trust. In addition, he was appointed to serve on national committees under multiple presidential administrations, predominantly to assist in trade agreements.
Johnson was chairman of the Sunflower County Republican Party in its formative years and a member of the Mississippi Republican executive committee. Due to his work with legislative and regulatory powers, he received the Delta Council Lifetime Achievement Award and the Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to Delta Aquaculture in 2006.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Joan Dorsett Johnson, three daughters, and four grandchildren.