Johnston held the position for eight terms before retiring at the age of 89 in December 2008, the longest serving elected officials in Floyd Coun-
ty. He was a county employee for 45 years.
Johnston served as deputy clerk under Ward Aderholt and B.C. Morgan before deciding to run for the office upon Morgan’s retirement in 1976. Johnston beat Ernest Rolan in the Democratic primary that year by less than 200 votes.
“Joe knew more than I’ll ever live to learn in that office,” said current Clerk of Court Barbara Penson. “Of the 159 counties, he was one of the finest. He was an
adviser of mine up until less than two weeks ago. He’s going to be greatly missed.”
Retired Superior Court Judge F. Larry Salmon served with Johnston at three different courthouse buildings in downtown Rome. “He was very dedicated to his job and there was nothing about the Clerk’s job that he let go undone,” Judge Salmon said. “He was just a fixture at the courthouse.”
Superior Court Judge Walter Matthews also used the word “fixture” to describe Johnston. “Joe was the biggest help to me when I became a judge. He went out of his way to help me in every way that he could,” Matthews said. I appreciated him much more than I realized I would before I took office. He was somebody who cared very much about what he did and how his office operated. He was quite a guy.”
Hartwell Nolan, a longtime friend of Johnston’s through the American Legion Post 5 in Rome, remembered that Johnston was in charge of the Veterans Day observance at Myrtle Hill Cemetery for many years before finally giving up those responsibilities.
“He was one of the finest Legionnaires I’ve ever been associated. He worked hard and was a staunch Legionnaire,” Nolan said. “Joe served on so many committee I can’t even remember them all.”
Former Floyd County Commissioner Jim Mehaffey said that Johnston treated the Clerk of Court’s position like it was his own business. “He knew it from the ground up and felt like as long as he stayed there it would be in good hands,” Mehaffey said.
Johnston served in the U.S. Army during World War II and saw combat action in the South Pacific.
The family will receive friends from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Daniel’s Funeral Home, Second Avenue. Graveside services are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the East View Cemetery.