Dr. Johnny Edward Tolliver, Sr. was born on December 3, 1944 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His parents were Jerry and Freddie B. Tolliver, Sr. He graduated salutatorian from Rosa A. Temple High School in 1962. In 1966, he graduated valedictorian with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. While there in his sophomore year, Johnny met the love of his life, Ollie Bell Wright. On June 18, 1966, they wed and remained together until he departed this life.
After completing college, Johnny continued his studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was there that he earned a Doctorate in English and American Literature and Language in 1974.
Johnny was a lifelong educator. From teaching a literature course for prison inmates to teaching at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Johnny loved molding young minds. He had over thirty-five years of teaching experience at several colleges and universities. He also served as an administrator, which began when he returned to his alma mater, Jackson State, to serve as the Head of the Department of Mass Communications from 1974 to 1980. Johnny founded this department. During this time, he also oversaw the construction and licensing of and became the general manager of the campus radio station, WJSU-FM. From 1987 to 1993, Johnny served as Head of the Department of English at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. Later, he served first as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and then Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. From 2004 to 2008, he served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Even while serving as an administrator, Johnny continued to teach courses, and returned to the classroom full-time before retiring. In addition, he authored and co-authored three books and several articles.
Johnny also served his country in the military, earning the rank of Major. He served active duty in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973 and 1980 to 1987. Between these active tours and after, Johnny also served in the United States Army Reserve. During part of his military career, he was in field artillery. For him, however, the highlight was two tours he spent teaching at West Point, first as an instructor (1972 to 1973) and then as a Permanent Associate Professor (1984 to 1987). He was the first African-American Permanent Associate Professor in the English Department. In addition to teaching, Johnny administered a pilot writing program for the Army at three military installations and three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This course became the required writing course for the ROTC Enhanced Skills Training Program at twenty HBCUs.
Throughout his life, Johnny was a trailblazer, earning numerous accolades and awards. Although he had many titles throughout his years, his most treasured were husband, father, papa, pop pop, brother, friend, and mentor to many. He was also a member of the distinguished Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Johnny was an avid fan of the Temptations (whose music he performed); Earth, Wind, and Fire; and gospel performer, Richard Smallwood. Johnny loved following politics, world events, and professional wrestling. His likes were as eclectic as his personality. He was best known for his good nature, sense of humor, biting but playful sarcasm, and infectious laughter.
On July 29, 2013, Johnny was called home to be with the Lord while surrounded by his family. Left to cherish his memory are his devoted wife, Ollie; his sisters, Freddie L. Tolliver-Wilson and Mary Martin; his brother, Marshal Sanders; his children: Felicia Tolliver-Johnson, Johnny Tolliver, Jr. (Chariole), Patricia Giles, and Jonathan Tolliver; his grandchildren: Meric Williams, Lauren Tolliver, Rhauntia Tolliver, Ronald Johnson, Deron Johnson, Jhaiana Tolliver, and Pierce Giles; several in-laws; and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, mentees, and friends.
Johnny was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Jerry Tolliver, Jr.; sister, Geraldine Tolliver; and son-in-law, Gene Giles.
The viewing will be held Friday, August 2, at Ronald C. Perkins Funeral Home, Hampton, from 12-6 p.m. and the wake from 6-7 p.m The funeral service will be held Saturday, August 3, 11 a.m., at First Baptist Church, Hampton. Entombment will follow at Parklawn Memorial Park.
Born: December 3, 1944
Place of Birth: Vicksburg, MS
Death: July 29, 2013
Place of Death: Hampton, VA
This memorial provided by:
RONALD C. PERKINS FUNERAL HOME