The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
A basketball court in Morgan City under the U.S. 90 overpass at Fifth Street was dedicated Saturday to longtime community recreation volunteer Coach Jimmie Johnson, who passed away in August. Family members unveil a sketch of Johnson at center court with the court’s name: Jimmie Johnson Memorial Park.
Johnson’s widow, Delores Johnson, speaks at the dedication ceremony. From left are Danika Foley and Courtney “Schola” Long of the community organization Hoodstock, which spearheaded the project, Johnson and Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi.
Basketball court dedicated to 'Coach Jimmie'
A vision became a reality Saturday as a local basketball court that had been revitalized was dedicated in a longtime community leader’s honor.
Area city and community leaders gathered at the refurbished court at Fifth and Greenwood streets for a dedication ceremony in honor of the late James Oneal “Coach Jimmie” Johnson. Johnson was a trailblazer in the African American community and the city as he was instrumental in founding and contributing to various youth recreational programs, among other contributions.
He worked with St. Mary Parish sports programs for approximately 60 years and ran a free basketball clinic until 2019. He passed away in August of last year.
Courtney “Schola” Long and Danika Foley of the community organization Hoodstock had sought to complete a refurbishing project, and Long presented the idea of redoing the court to Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi in 2014.
“But we had to try to figure out how to make it happen,” Long said Saturday. “We knew it was going to be a big thing to take on, and we were going to have to figure out how to get the funding.”
While the plans didn’t materialize initially, Long said in hindsight, he thought the delay was for a reason.
“Because it would have just been a court with nobody’s name on it, and I think right now, we have an opportunity to honor a man who definitely deserves it,” he said.
The $70,000 project, of which the H&B Young Foundation contributed $15,000, includes new basketball goals, bleachers, fencing and a blue and beige court. A sketch of Johnson is at center court, encircled by its name: Jimmie Johnson Memorial Park.
“I think a lot of people thought we were talking about maybe painting some new lines and maybe putting a new net up, but nobody in their wildest imagination knew that we were going to drop $70,000 in this facility, which I believe is the most-used court in the city,” Grizzaffi said.
Johnson’s widow, Delores Johnson, was thankful for the project.
“I thank the city of Morgan City, those that donated, bought shirts and the one’s that loved my husband so much,” she said via KWBJ-TV 22. “I love y’all, because he was a great man and he will live on, and his free basketball clinic will live on.”
In addition to serving as a place for area youth to play basketball, the court will provide an opportunity to keep Johnson’s legacy alive as a plaque with his contributions will be installed at a later date at the park.
“So many people today, tomorrow should know about Mr. Jimmie, and once we get that plaque up, they will know about him,” Foley said.
The court dedication is the first phase of work on the project, Grizzaffi said.
Grizzaffi, whose last day in office was Monday, said that Mayor-elect Lee Dragna supports the facility and understands the goal is to potentially expand and enhance the area between Fourth and Fifth streets to “make it a true memorial park.”