By Chandra Harris-McCray
"I am a triple threat," Dr. Carroll Johnson says with a deep laugh, as he slowly lowers himself into a chair, using his cane for leverage, in the sunroom of his Florida townhome.
He can barely see or hear, and without his cane, his legs are prone to do anything except walk where he wants them to go.
Despite his physical infirmities, Johnson is still a force to be reckoned with. At 97, he has been supporting Chattanooga's university for 72 years— since he was 25.
Holding the record as one of the longest supporters of the university, Johnson has outdone others and surprised himself. "Have I really been giving that long?" he asks, with puzzlement and a hint of laughter in his voice.
"And I am still indebted to UTC," says the 1935 UC graduate.
Johnson's deep obligation is rooted in a $100 scholarship he received to attend UTC's predecessor, the University of Chattanooga.
Raised 10 miles south of Chattanooga in the rural community of Wildwood, Ga., Johnson rode shotgun in the car of a lawyer's wife to and from UTC. "It was a measure of protection for his wife who worked in Chattanooga," Johnson explains, "and it was a great help to me." By his junior year, the lawyer, who tried to pique Johnson's interest in a law career, let him borrow his wife's car to ensure he made it to his classes.
Legal briefs did not grab his attention in the same way English papers did in the classrooms of English professors Bonnie Gilbert and Mabel Griscomb. They made an impression on Johnson, as did registrar Betty Blocker and Mae Saunders who worked in the president's office.
"It was my college professors and UC administrators that really challenged the way I thought," he says.
After he graduated, Johnson earned a master's degree from the University of Georgia and master's and doctoral degrees from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
His illustrious teaching career began in the Georgia public schools where he started as a teacher before being promoted to principal.
After three and a half years in the Navy as a director of physical training, Johnson continued his educational career at one of the most pivotal times in history— desegregation of U.S. public schools. Serving as the superintendent of schools in White Plains, New York, Johnson surprised many in the urban school district when he— a Southern gentleman— supported integrating the school system.
Confronting Racial Injustice
The late Dr. Errold Collymore, a black dentist who confronted racial injustice and fought for change before the Civil Rights Movement officially began, sent a typewritten thank you letter to Johnson which said:
"When you came to White Plains I was very apprehensive...I openly expressed my doubts and anxiety about a superintendent of schools for White Plains who came from Georgia.
"My early fears were unfounded and unfair. I have been greatly impressed with your fairness, your objectivity, your considerable administrative competence...your dignity and unmistakable humanity."
A treasured possession of Johnson's, the letter is kept with a stack of other letters, newspaper clippings, and mementos.
Never saying "I," Johnson repeatedly says with emphasis: "We attained a measure of success when we integrated the schools."
Johnson conducted over 150 searches for school superintendents in 25 states. He served 12 years as a senior consultant to the National School Boards Association and conducted all their executive searches for school superintendents. Johnson recommended women and minorities for superintendent positions.
He often was asked to speak at annual conventions and conferences of the National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators. One of those meetings stands out to Johnson because of his encounter with the University of Tennessee's beloved former president Dr. Andy Holt— "what a great man and storyteller," he says.
After 15 years in New York, Johnson accepted a position at the Teachers College at Columbia University.
With a humble "I-did-what-I-could-attitude," Johnson is quick to give teachers, staff, and others with whom he worked the praise for the success he attained.
"None of it would have been possible without the University of Chattanooga," he says. "So many people believed in me and gave me the foundation to build my career in education."
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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.
an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."
able to be changed or cancelled
A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.
cannot be changed or cancelled
tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient
the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation
the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase
the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on
The person receiving the gift annuity payments.
the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid
a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will
the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will
A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to UT or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.
An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.
Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.
Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.
Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.
A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.
You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.
You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.
A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and UT where you agree to make a gift to UT and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.