Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: Joseph Johnson
Joseph Johnson - 2008 Florida Folk Heritage Award
As the chairman of Sunday Morning Band (SMB), Lodge #363 for the past 15 years, Joseph Johnson oversees the preservation of a mutual aid society with an unsurpassed legacy in Florida. SMB started in 1868 in Columbia County’s Bethel Church, and grew into a statewide mutual aid society that assisted members and ensured decent, respectful burials. Johnson “was born into the band” in 1947 in Jackson County, since his mother was a presiding officer. A retired radiologist at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Johnson has long resided in Tallahassee—but Cottondale remains his true home. He frequently returns for lodge and church events. Annually, on the second Sunday in September, Band #363 “marches in,” forming a procession from their lodge to the anniversary program site at Henshaw. Johnson leads the signature spiritual “Sunday Morning Band” upon entering the churchyard. In 1965, Johnson also formed the Jubilives, a traditional African American gospel quartet. A perennial presence in Wiregrass Florida and Alabama, the group performs complex harmonies with an emphasis on lead singing with the other vocalists singing backup. A superb singer, Johnson heads the quartet and is one of gospel’s greatest regional practitioners.