by: Haley Walden for the Courier Journal / Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2016



Ruby Johnson will celebrate 100 years of orbiting the sun later this week.

Ruby was born on Dec. 25, 1916 in Hardin County, Tennessee to Lawrence and Hattie White, the oldest of five girls. The family lived on the same property as the grocery and dry goods store they ran. Johnson helped her mother raise the girls and run the store.

“Daddy brought the first truck to Wayne County,” Johnson said. White used it to haul goods for the store and to transport cotton to the gin in Florence.

“Daddy tended cattle on the open range,” she said. White contracted tuberculosis while tending the cattle. The family moved briefly to Florida for his treatments, but they weren’t helpful for him. He died when they returned to Lutts when Ruby was six or seven.

Eventually, Hattie White married her husband’s half-brother, who was an attentive stepfather to Johnson and her two sisters, Lura Mae and Maudie. Johnson’s twin sisters, Vonnie and Bonnie, were born afterward.

Johnson’s stepfather left his job as a guard at Wilson Dam to take over the White’s family store, and he made sure all five girls attended school. She can recall learning to read with her first-grade teacher.

Johnson attended schools in Savannah, Collinwood, and Waynesboro before enrolling at Florence Teacher’s College. She drove to Florence from Lutts three days a week.

Becoming a teacher was an easy choice for Johnson. “I loved school,” she said. Johnson went on to teach in Lutts for 37 years. She spent most of her time teaching first graders.

“When I first started teaching there were no buses,” she said. “There was no toilet or running water at the school.

“Children minded better back then,” Johnson added. “Start them out behaving, and they’ll go that way.”

Johnson met her husband, Brodie, during college. They married after graduation and later had one son, Ancil, who lives in Florence. The Johnsons lived a happy, simple life on their farm in Lutts for 49 years. They didn’t have a car when they first married, but once they bought one they enjoyed visiting Florence and going to the fair when it came to town.

Johnson said her favorite thing to do with her husband was “chattin’.

“We got along well,” Johnson said. “We tended to things. We didn’t have anything special. He raised cattle. I taught school, came home, and cooked.”

Johnson retired from teaching in 1965 and found time to do things she enjoyed. “I grew my garden, did housework…anything I wanted,” she said.

She is a faithful Christian, and still worships weekly at Florence Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She has only missed two or three services since 2013. “I don’t hear a word, but I’ve got to get the Lord’s Supper,” she said.

Johnson also loves word-find books, and completes one per week on average to keep her mind sharp. She is able to recall names and vivid details from her past.

“I must’ve had a good mind,” she said. “That’s one thing the Lord helped me with, I reckon.”

Johnson said while life is better overall in 2016 than it was in the past, the aches and pains of age have caught up with her.

“If I could have anything [for my birthday], I’d want to feel good again,” she said.

Two of Johnson’s sisters, Lura Mae and Vonnie, were buried within a week of one another in the past month. They were preceded in death by another sister, Maudie, who lived in Indiana with her husband. Jackson’s remaining sister, Bonnie, recently had a stroke.

Johnson received a Lifetime Certificate from the University of North Alabama recently, and will celebrate her 100th birthday next week, with special guest Bobby Denton singing.

Back to News