Loss of an icon: Raines mourns passing of ex-coach, principal Jimmie Johnson

From left to right, Don Gaffney, Coach Jimmie Johnson and Charles Owens. Johnson, a former principal and coach at Raines High School, died the school said on Monday. Courtesy: Maefred Grier-Haynes (Maefred Grier-Haynes, News4JAX.com)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Saying the area had lost a “legend,” Raines High School announced that longtime principal and football coach Jimmie Johnson died.

The school announced Johnson’s death in a release on Monday morning. Johnson, 88, was a beloved fixture in the area for decades. He was a coach and then became principal of Raines, serving in that capacity from 1979-1995. Johnson then served on the Duval County school board from November 1996 through November 2004.

He helped serve on the Bob Hayes Track and Field Invitational committee and was a fixture at that event long after he retired.

Welton Coffey, the former Raines coach who led the Vikings to their first state championship, said there were many heavy hearts when the news of Johnson’s passing came out.

“As a student, he was my principal. And what you had was a man, a man’s man, if you will,” he said. “A man who loved on you, and didn’t mind chastising you when you were wrong. A fair man.”

Buoyed by quarterback Terry LeCount, Johnson guided Raines to the Class 4A state championship game in 1973. The Vikings lost to Hollywood Hills, 22-9.

In a release from the school, Raines principal Vincent Hall:

“The world has lost a legend; William Marion Raines Senior High School has lost an icon and the City of Jacksonville has lost one of its most fearless leaders. It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of The Honorable Jimmie Johnson. He was honored and respected as the longest serving principal in the history of Raines and an icon of the Duval County Public School Board of which he served as the former chair but many of you knew him as a loving father, husband, friend, and coach.

“He was a stalwart champion in the field of public education. He dedicated his entire life to educating the students of Jacksonville. He will be deeply missed. We mourn his loss and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. A more appropriate and detailed tribute will be released later and as we learn of an official memorial service we will share. Please keep his family and all Vikings in your thoughts during this very difficult time,” Hall’s statement read.

Coffey said that he was a better man for knowing Johnson.

“So there’s no question when you say the word, say the name, Jimmie Johnson, it carries a lot of weight and a lot of gravity to it,” he said. “And I’m just just excited and humbled to have the opportunity to know him.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.