February 14, 2021
Whole Number 17
WILLIAM PERRY JOHNSON -- A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
by Russell E. Bidlack
William Perry Johnson, whose portrait is featured on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly, was one of the founders of The Sparks Family Association, and during the four years of the Association's existence he has spent a large amount of time and effort doing research on behalf of the Sparks family. Many of the articles which have appeared in the Quarterly were written solely by Mr. Johnson, and he has provided data for several of those which do not bear his name. All members of the Association should feel a personal debt to Mr. Johnson for the work he is doing to trace and preserve our heritage.
William Perry Johnson was born May 16, 1918, on a farm near Fairmount, Grant County, Indiana, the son of Carter Guy and Mary Evelyn (Seale) Johnson. He is a Sparks descendant, being the great-great-great-great-grandson of Susannah Sparks and her husband, Charles Johnson (see page 98 of the December, 1955, Whole No. 12, issue of The Sparks Quarterly.)
At an early age, Mr. Johnson became interested in his family history and in 1936 he went to North Carolina where many of his ancestors had lived in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. He lived intermittently in North Carolina until 1942, and during these years he spent much of his time gathering genealogical data. In June, 1942, he entered the Army where he continued his genealogical pursuits during his free time. Soon after his induction into the Army he was sent to Camp Lucker, Alabama, where he was assigned to the Wildcat Infantry Division. In October, 1942, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and placed on a cadre; in November of that year he was sent to Camp McCain, Mississippi, as a member of the Acorn Infantry Division. He became supply sergeant in March, 1943, and was promoted to staff sergeant the following month. He was honorably discharged, due to poor health, in October, 1943. Following his release from the Army, Mr. Johnson settled in Los Angeles, California, where he attended Los Angeles City College. He was graduated, cum laude, in 1950 and later studied for a year at Los Angeles State College.
Much of Mr. Johnson's research prior to 1951 was devoted to the Hiatt family (his paternal grandmother was a Hiatt) and in that year appeared his monumental Hiatt-Hiett Genealogy and Family History, 1699-1949. This volume, which contains over one thousand pages and some twenty thousand names, was published and distributed by The Jesse Hiatt Family Association, The work has attracted praise in every quarter and reviewers have described it as a model of scholarship, accuracy, and completeness.
In 1952 Mr. Johnson decided to make family history more than just a hobby. He moved back to North Carolina, settling in Raleigh, where he soon established a fine reputation as a professional genealogist. Although he specializes in North Carolina research, he frequently travels to other Southern states and to Washington, D.C., on behalf of his many clients. His wide knowledge of the sources of genealogical research in archives and court houses, and elsewhere, plus an inherent ability, have enabled him to solve genealogical problems which have baffled other researchers.
Mr. Johnson is also the editor and publisher of The North Carolinian, A Quarterly Journal of Genealogy and History, which began puMTcation in March, 1955. Devoted to the publication of previously unprinted genealogical source material, the North Carolinian has attracted wide acclaim. The magazine is of interest to persons all over the United States because North Carolina. dating from the middle 1600's, has been the ancestral home of thousands of American families. A large percentage of the people living today in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and many other states have ancestors who settled in North Carolina for at least a generation or two before moving on to what appeared to be greener pastures. Mr. Johnson is also the publisher and distributor of the 1815 Tax List of Randolph County, North Carolina, which was compiled and edited tyWinford Calvin Hinshaw. Other similar publications are planned for the future.
The picture which appears on the cover was published originally in the Raleigh News and Observer on March 11, 1956, along with an interesting article about William Perry Johnson written by George Raynor. Mr. Johnson owns one of the largest collections of ancestral pictures in the United States. Those displayed in this picture include his parents, his four grandparents, all eight of his great-grandparents, eight of his sixteen great-great-grandparents, four of his 3great-grandparents, and one of his 4great-grandparents.