Two-plus generations of local family earn college degrees

Published 9:32 am Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Many parents do their best to stress the importance of education to their children as they grow up and try to get the children to go to college to get degrees.

Hardenia and Joe Johnson, a working-class, black couple in Demopolis in the 1930s and on into the latter parts of the century, did just that. All eight of their children earned college degrees.

Burnquetta Johnson, the third youngest of the eight children, said they really didn’t have a choice in the matter.

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“We didn’t have much of a choice,” she said. “It was instilled in us from a young age that we had to go to college and get our education. My parents had children in sets, so my oldest sister was graduating college when I was going into the first grade. It was always important for all of us to pursue our education.”

She added that she and her siblings could have either gone to school or gone to work in the family restaurant, and they didn’t want to work in the restaurant anymore after high school.

Now, as of December 2012, all eight of Joe and Hardenia’s grandchildren have also graduated college, giving the Johnson family two full generations of college graduates.

“Those of us that had children did the same thing as our parents did,” Burnquetta said. “I taught in the schools for a long time, and I instilled in those children and our family instilled in our children that an education is very important.”

The eight grandchildren who graduated are:

•Lajoy – Howard University

•JR – Tuskegee University

•Bobby – Stillman College

•Reuben – Tuskegee University

•Wanda – University of Kentucky

•Clint – University of Alabama

•Tracye – University of North Carolina

•Caryn – University of Georgia

The oldest grandchild, Lajoy, is 58-years-old and the youngest, Caryn, is 28-years-old.

Burnquetta, who is the only member of the family still living in Demopolis, said there are also six great-grandchildren in the family, and four of them have graduated college.

“Joe and Hardenia had to work very hard for what they had,” she said, “and they wanted the best for their children. Getting an education was what was best for us.”

She added that the family continues to pray for the great-grandchildren and the future generations of the family.

“We all want what is best for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “We continue to pray for them and that they make the right decisions in life.”