University honors pastor, deaf ministry leader

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BOILING SPRINGS — Deaf minister, missionary and church planter Daniel Calhoun Johnson Jr., formerly of Wilson, has been posthumously inducted into Gardner-Webb University’s Gallery of Distinguished Alumni.

Gardner-Webb bestowed the honor on eight alumni during its 2017 homecoming ceremonies held Oct. 6-7.

Johnson became deaf when he was almost 9 years old. While in high school, he started looking for a small Christian college that would provide interpreters for deaf students. Unable to locate any, Johnson contacted the Rev. Jerry Potter, a North Carolina missionary to the deaf.

Around this time, Gardner-Webb’s then-President Craven Williams began thinking of starting a deaf program at Gardner-Webb. Potter was enlisted, and the N.C. Baptist Association continued to pay Potter’s salary while he set up the program at Gardner-Webb.

Cheryl Potter, associate dean of the Noel Center for Disability Resources at GWU, remembers Johnson.

“It was Daniel’s outspoken desire to receive an education in a Christian environment that led to the establishment of a deaf program at Gardner-Webb University,” she said. “Throughout his life, Daniel worked tirelessly to bring the word of God to people everywhere. His deafness did not hinder him, but instead was used as a testament to God’s grace and to further God’s kingdom.”

Johnson completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at Gardner-Webb in 1982. He went on to New Orleans Theological Seminary for his Master of Divinity, completing his degree in 1985. He was awarded his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2008 at Samford University’s Beeson School of Divinity in Homewood, Alabama.

Throughout his professional life, Johnson was an advocate for deaf ministry. He was particularly passionate about missions and education. He lived out his calling and shared his expertise while serving as pastor for the deaf and as a strategic church planter.

Additionally, Johnson operated as a field worker and missionary for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

He worked with the Schools for the Deaf to establish Bible studies for the students of the residential schools. Before he passed away Jan. 16, 2011, Johnson served as director of the Tri-State School of Theology for the Deaf, which is affiliated with Gardner-Webb, and he actively served on the Board for Disability Rights of North Carolina.

Since 1957, Gardner-Webb has recognized and honored more than 400 alumni and friends who have made significant contributions in their fields of service and in the communities in which they serve. The university established the Gallery of Distinguished Alumni in 1988.

Gardner-Webb is a private Christian liberal arts university located in Cleveland County.