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Cover Story, August 2022
The Life & Legacy of W.A., Reverend Dr. Wesley Alexander Johnson, Sr.

Photo by Tom Netherland, Special To The Bristol Herald Courier

The Life & Legacy of W.A., Reverend Dr. Wesley Alexander Johnson, Sr.

Served 61 years as Pastor of Lee Street Baptist Church, Bristol, Virginia

By Pastor Roger Mills, AHERN Publisher / 8-1-2022

Life and Legacy

Reverend Dr. Willis Alexander Johnson, Sr., born in 1932 in Lynchburg, VA, transitioned on July 6, 2022, at the age of 90.

He received his undergraduate, Master's, and Doctoral degree from Virginia Union University, Richmond, VA; attended Virginia Seminary, Lynchburg, VA., earned a master's from the University of Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL, and earned a doctorate in Human Letter from the Tennessee Baptist School of Religion.  He held the following degrees: BA, BD, M.Div., M.TH., and DD.

Rev. Johnson accepted the call to be Lee Street Baptist Church's pastor and began the fourth Sunday in February of 1961, serving as the spiritual leader for 61 years until his transition.

He was a spiritual leader of the city, region, and state through the years. He led Lee Street in building a new church (1965), added a community center (1990), and a child care center (2000). He served as Moderator of Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Association of Southwest VA for 35 years, and President of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (1987-1989), leading the Association in building a new state office in Richmond, VA.

In 1966, he organized the Bristol Head Start Center in Lee Street. It was one of the first Head Start programs of the Community Action Agencies in the state and the county. In partnership with the Progressive Community Club of Washington County, now People, Inc., the center outgrew Lee Street and moved in 1991. He served on the Board of Directors of People, Inc. for 10 years and also served as chairman.

Rev. Johnson held several community, state, and national positions. He served as a trustee of Virginia Union University of Richmond, VA; served on a number of Boards of Directors and Advisory Board: Wellmont Hospital; The United Way; The Kiwanis Club; People, Inc.; Bristol Faith in Action; Mike Jenkins Ministries, Inc.; King College Round Table; Living Faith Ministries, Inc.; (WLFG); and the Regional Advisory Board of Wachovia / Wells Fargo Bank.

Rev. Johnson traveled to 20 countries preaching, teaching, and planting churches. A number of churches were started in Central Asia, Africa, Haiti, Cuba, and South Africa. Rev. Johnson presented the Living Word Television on WLFG; served as an “Open Door” devotional speaker on WCYB from 1971-2001; and was AHERN’s 2011 Pastor of The Year.


For three hours, preachers and laypeople from Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia passed by the bronze casket of Reverend Dr. Willis Alexander Johnson, Sr., as he lay peacefully in this robe.

At 2 pm on July 22, 2022, in Virginia High School Gymnasium, Bristol, VA, Presiding Minister, Rev. Aaron Murphy, Pastor of Thankful Baptist Church, Johnson City, TN, gave the call to worship, the time has come for us to celebrate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Willis Alexander Johnson, Sr..

Tri-Cities Mass Choir opened the celebration with “Give Him Glory”. Rev. Eddie Mabry, Associate Minister at New Hope Baptist Church, Bristol, VA read the Old Testament scripture, Psalms 91: 1-10, and Rev. Dr. Kenneth Calvert, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Kingsport, TN read the New Testament scripture, 2 Timothy 2: 1-7. The prayer of comfort was prayed by Rev. Aaron Murphy.

Acknowledgment and Words of Comfort were given by: Rev. Dr. Milton Bunting, President of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia; Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook Sr., former President of the Tennessee Baptist Missionary & Education Convention; Rev. Danny Belcher, Vice-Moderator of the  Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Association of Southwest Virginia; Rev. Dwayne Mabry, Bristol Area Ministerial Alliance; Rev. Nathaniel Moultrie, Son-in-Ministry and pastor of White Oak Spring Missionary Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA; Israel O'Quinn, Virginia House of Representative; Randy Eads, Bristol, VA City Manage; Margaret Feierabend, Bristol, TN City Council; Deacons Kevin Mason and Thomas Brown, Lee Street Baptist Church; Chief John Austin, Bristol Virginia Police Department; Anthony Farnum, Mayor of Bristol, VA; and J. Richardson, Tri-Cities Mass Choir.

Resolutions were presented by the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and Bristol Area Ministerial Alliance, followed by the Tri-Cities Mass Choir's second song of comfort was “Every Praise”.

The celebration message was delivered by Rev. Dr. William Reid, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Bristol, VA. Rev. Reid’s message was, “When God Honors A Man” from John 11: 36,43,44.

Rev. Johnson was laid to rest in the Mountain View Cemetery, Bristol, VA.

R.A. Clark Funeral Service, Inc., Bristol, VA served the family.

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