Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: Bobby Thomas Johns
Bobby Thomas JohnsFlorida Folklife Program/Florida Department of State. Photo by Tina Bucuvalas.
Bobby Thomas Johns (1936 - 2013) - 1993 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Bobby Thomas Johns (Pensacola) was born in 1936 in the Okefenokee Swamp region of Georgia, where his family took refuge so that they would not be sent to live in Oklahoma. Of Creek–Indian and Anglo–American heritage, Johns learned many aspects of Creek culture as a boy from his elders—particularly his Uncle Tone, who became his special mentor. “For every skill he taught me, he taught me a lesson in life,” Johns remembered. Johns was particularly interested in woodcarving, which he mastered early and sometimes sold to visitors to the region. He also developed exceptional abilities as storyteller. For many years he has been the leader, or Micco, of the Perdido Bay Tribe, of the Southeastern Lower Muscogee Creek Indians in Pensacola.
Johns' carvings reflected his integrated view of art and life. They often told a story and were expressions of real–life events. His work was appreciated by collectors as well as specialists. In 1989, Nicole L. Schwinn of Harvard's Peabody Museum wrote Johns: “Many of our prominent customers remain very interested in your leather art and carvings. I extend to you a hopeful request that we be allowed to show and sell any material that you produce.”
In 1989, Johns was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the Division of Cultural Affairs. He served as a master artist in the in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program in 1989–1990 and 2005–2006 and was awarded a Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1993. He participated in numerous educational outreach programs; was Guest Artist and Artist–in–Residence with Escambia County's middle and high schools, and volunteered at the Pensacola Historical Museum; and was a participating artist at the Florida Folk Festival, Tallahassee Book Fair, Crossroads Folk Art Festival, and numerous other events.