Round Rock ISD’s newest elementary school will be named in honor of former principal, coach, teacher and bus driver Joe Lee Johnson, who worked for RRISD from 1950-1986, according to the district.
RRISD board of trustees approved the name 6-0, Dec. 17. Trustee Diane Cox was absent.
The board also approved the attendance zone for the new school, which will include a small portion of Bluebonnet Elementary School students who live south of SH 45 N as well as half of the students currently attending Wells Branch Elementary, who live north of Merrilltown Drive. The switch will bring capacity at Wells Branch from more than 100 percent down to 65 percent.
The new elementary school at 2800 Sauls Drive will have more than 500 students when it opens for the 2016-17 school year. Its capacity is more than 900, according to district officials.
Members of Joe Lee Johnson’s family attended the meeting, including his wife, Mellownie Johnson, who is a retired RRISD teacher and a resident of Round Rock.
Board President Paul Tisch told the family it was an honor to have the opportunity to name the school after a man of such distinction.
Naming committee representative Michelle Sherwood, who first introduced the name recommendation to the board Nov. 19, said math, which Johnson taught, would be an important subject area in the new school.
“He pushed his students to be all that they could be, and then pushed them some more,” Sherwood said.
A local legend
The former Hopewell School, where Joe Lee Johnson served as principal during desegregation, sits in front of Round Rock ISD administrative offices.[/caption]
According to the book “Round Rock,” by Bob Brinkman, Johnson was born in 1882. Both his father and grandfather were born into slavery, and both are buried in the northwest corner of the Round Rock Cemetery, where slaves were commonly buried in the nineteenth century, according to the book.
Johnson was a graduate of Hopewell School, which served as the only school for African American students in Round Rock from 1922-1966. After high school, Johnson joined the military and served time in Korea, according to Mellownie, who spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in 2008.
Mellownie said after serving in the military, her husband attended former Samuel Huston College, now Huston-Tillotson University in Austin.
Johnson moved his family to his hometown of Round Rock in 1948 and began investing in property there, Mellownie said. Johnson also became a coach at the Hopewell School.
In 1951, according to the Williamson County Historic Commission, he led the girls’ track team to the first of four state championships over the next five years.
Johnson later became principal of the Hopewell School, and served as its principal in 1966, when the school was integrated into RRISD. Following desegregation, Johnson taught math at Central Elementary School and volunteered at the Young Men’s Club, according to the Historic Commission.
After retiring in 1986, Johnson continued to work as a bus driver for the district.
Johnson was declared a Round Rock Local Legend by the city in 1991. He died in 1994.