July 08, 2007

Pages 2256-2257
Whole Number 112


It is with deep personal sadness and regret that your President and Editor report the sudden death of William Perry Johnson on October 17, 1980. Mr. Johnson was one of the founders of The Sparks Family Association and served from 1953 until his death as the Association's Historian-Genealogist.

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. His interest in genealogy began when he was only 16 years old (in 1934). He traced his paternal ancestry to Charles Johnson who married Susannah Sparks, daughter of Solomon Sparks, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1784. Charles and Susannah (Sparks) Johnson were his great-great-great-great-grandparents.

In 1936, Mr. Johnson moved to North Carolina where many of his ancestors had lived in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. He used to joke that he was probably the only 18-year-old in American history who ever ran away from home to search for his ancestors.

Mr. Johnson served in the United States Army from June 1942 until October 1943, advancing from private to staff sergeant. He was discharged because of health problems. He then settled in Los Angeles where he graduated cum laude in 1950 from Los Angeles City College. He studied for an additional year at Los Angeles State College. While in the Army, Mr. Johnson was married on July 23, 1943, to Della Florence Hinshaw. They had one child, a daughter named Rosemary, who was born November 1, 1944.

While attending college, Mr. Johnson continued his genealogical research and published his first major work in 1951, the Hiatt-Hiett Genealogy and Family History, 1699 -1949, comprising over 1,000 pages.

In 1952, Mr. Johnson decided to make genealogy his profession as well as his hobby. He moved back to North Carolina, settling in Raleigh where he continued to live until his death. Specializing in North Carolina genealogy, he traveled widely throughout North Carolina, as well as the southern states generally, on behalf of his many clients. His wide knowledge of the sources of genealogical research, along with his inherent ability and perseverance, enabled him to solve genealogical problems that often baffled others. His many publications of genealogical source material and family histories, including his editorship, begun in 1955, of The North Carolinian, a Quarterly Journal of Genealogy and History, will serve as monuments to his memory as a distinguished genealogical scholar.

The photograph of Mr. Johnson appearing on page 2256 was taken in 1956 and was first published in the Raleigh News and Observer of March 11 of that year. For many years he had made a determined effort to locate photographs of his ancestors, which appear in the photograph. Besides his parents, his four grandparents and his eight great-grandparents, he had photographs of eight of his sixteen great-great-grandparents, and four of his great-great-great-grandparents, along with a silhouette of one of his great-great-great-great-grandmothers.

Genealogical research has suffered a severe loss with William Perry Johnson's passing. His work on behalf of The Sparks Family Association will be sorely missed.