Bradwell Institute’s legendary football coach and Riceboro native, Clifford Johnson died Nov. 13. According to his obituary he was 84 and passed at his home in Fernandina Beach.
The avid and tournament winning golfer and sports enthusiast attended Georgia Southern College, formerly Georgia Teachers College.
But in Hinesville, Johnson is known best for his thirty years of devotion to Bradwell Institute’s athletic programs and their football team (the Lions which then became the Tigers).
His football coaching career at BI started as an assistant coach under another local legend, the late Harold ‘Hokey’ Jackson. Jackson and Johnson led the Bradwell squad to their first and only state championship in 1965.
Hokey Jackson’s record was 96-36-6 in his 13 seasons at BI. Johnson kept the team winning when he took over as head coach in1970, going 131-60-3 in his 18 years as head coach, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. He took the team to four Region Titles. Johnson retied from coaching in 1987.
He also coached girls’ basketball and golf and was the school’s Athletic Director. He moved from Hinesville to Fernandina Beach four and a half years ago.
Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame Chairman and Tiger Touchdown Club President, Craig Stafford, said Johnson was much more than a football coach to him.
“He was a coach that wanted the best for all his players on and off the field,” Stafford said. “And I think he worked hard to instill in his players that there was more to life than football. He was concerned about his players excelling at the next level. Whether that was helping them get a football scholarship or finishing school to get a degree and go to
college even if they weren’t playing. He always enjoyed hearing from his players and learning about all they were doing in all walks of life and he took pride in knowing he made a difference in many people’s life.”
Stafford said Johnson was also an educator.
“He taught me ninth grade health,” he said. “In his later years he was a Sunday School teacher for a men’s Sunday School class at the Methodist Church. “He was even a bailiff for a while for Liberty County Superior Court.”
“He was influential in many people’s lives in a very positive way,” Stafford continued. “I’m sad he is gone.”
Stafford said Johnson was among the first to be inducted into the Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame roughly 17 years ago.
Former BI and Georgia Southern quarterback Raymond Gross said Johnson was a coach until the very end.
First, I offer my condolences to the Johnson family,” Gross said. “Secondly I want everyone to know that coach was a coach until the end. He was always there for his family.... the family at home and the family abroad. His players, his coaches and BI.
Gross said he always had Johnson’s support during his own coaching endeavors.
“He would always encourage me by informing me about an opportunity within the game he loved and sometimes outside the game,” Gross said. “The
last time I spoke to coach, he was doing just that...I call it the GSU Incident. He was watching a Georgia Southern game and the announcers made a factual mistake he knew was wrong...coach called to verify it with me and in his protective Head Coaching role, he showed his support. If he could have called the network, he would have done so in order to set them straight. This is what made coach Johnson unique....30 plus years later, he was still being a coach and father figure, he was still being a friend.”
Gross said Johnson was part of his family and locally, when it came to football, he was the solid building block other coaches learned from.
“For many of us from Liberty County, he was a part of the great foundation that was provided for us through athletics and community....in my family, he coached every male that played football in Liberty County with the exception of one,” Gross said. “His legacy will live on through everyone he has coached and loved as a coach, father figure and mentor. Coach will never be forgotten, and his legacy will live on through all us. Rest in Peace Coach, job well done.”
“He was a model coach, educator and father figure,” Stafford added.
Johnson’s services were held Nov. 17, at Burgess Chapel of Oxley-Heard.