BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (WLBT) - David Johnson, known as “Basie” to his friends, was always the protector, the encourager, the friendly face in the halls of Brookhaven schools.
Along with his colleague Lt. Marzell Brooks, the two were known for their love for the kids and their ability to know and connect with them all. They knew their families, where they lived, and what their home life was like.
At the office, retired police chief Bobby Bell says Johnson was the same. He loved his coworkers, he loved his city, and he loved the people he served. He was also known all over for his upbeat spirit.
“He was a real good worker, dependable, funny at times, he used to keep me going when i was down by doing impersonations of certain people like the Rock and Michael Jackson,” said Bell.
Over the weekend, Johnson suffered a heart attack. A Lincoln County deputy he trained as a Brookhaven police officer rode to the hospital with him, but he didn’t make it. So many people who love him are in shock.
Just two weeks ago, Brookhaven Schools superintendent Roderick Henderson met with Johnson -- an old friend -- about some security ideas for the schools.
Johnson came up in the police ranks under Henderson’s father, retired Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson, and Rod Henderson basically came up under Johnson and Brooks. They were really the only people his dad would trust him with.
Brooks, who guarded the halls with Johnson throughout his entire career, died of Covid-19 in November.
The news of Brooks’ death stunned the entire community. For Johnson to follow within about two and a half months was even more of a blow.
“You know when you hear about someone you were close to -- as close as we were -- passing, you go through a period of time where you think about your own self and your own mortality,” Henderson said. “You think about their family and how they’re feeling, so it was very difficult, it continues to be difficult.”
For two generations of Brookhaven Schools students, Johnson and Brooks were who taught them about right and wrong, staying out of trouble, and relationships with the police.
Jasmaine Carter is a product of the city schools. She graduated with Johnson’s daughter, Courtney. Now 30 years old, she still remembers what it was like to know those guys were watching over her.
“It was a lot safer there with them there. Knowing them, and they’re positive people, and you knew nothing would happen with them being there,” she said.
Bell says with the connection and the knowledge Johnson and Brooks brought to the job, filling their shoes is tough.
“You can’t. You can’t find anyone, you can just hope that you put someone into those positions that will try to be what they were to the school system and to the community,” he said. “But they never will be replaced.”