J. Harvey Johnston, Jr., M.D.

A Requiem Eucharist will be held at St. Andrew’s Cathedral at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, February 24 for James Harvey Johnson Jr., M.D. There will be no reception following the service, but there will be visitation in the Cathedral’s Parish Hall beginning at 1 p.m. 

Dr. Johnston died February 11, at the age of 99 (five weeks prior to his 100th birthday).  A retired surgeon, he had the esteem and respect of his colleagues and legions of patients; and he was greatly beloved by his family and many friends.

Dr. Johnston was born in Hazlehurst on March 22, 1918, to James Harvey and Lou Brannan Johnston.  He attended elementary school in Houma, La., at Lorton Preparatory School, where he met his one and only love, Jane Hochenedel. 

As a beginning third-grader, Harvey made 100 on the fourth-grade math test and was promoted into Jane’s class.  He was also the only one to pass seventh-grade arithmetic; the rest of the class had to take arithmetic each of their high school years. To her death, Jane was convinced that Harvey had passed because his mother, a former teacher, had done his homework.

A child of the Depression, Harvey worked hard from the age of 12, six days a week, whenever school was not in session.  He first worked carrying buckets of water to the workers in the fields, and by the time he was 13, he was driving a tractor.  He worked odd jobs the entire time he was in prep school, college, and medical school. He remained frugal to the end. His only extravagance was the education he provided for his children, as well as with making provisions for the education of successive generations.

Dr. Johnston attended Tennessee Military Institute on a work scholarship, graduating second in his class at the age of 16.  He received a tuition scholarship to Tulane University; and there he and Jane began to see each other regularly, as she was a student at Newcomb. 

At the age of 23, Harvey received his medical degree from Tulane, graduating second in his class and a member of ODK and AOA honorary fraternities. Two days later, he and Jane were married at Jane’s home, Crescent Farm Plantation in Houma.

Dr. Johnston’s surgical training was in the Tulane Surgical Services at Charity Hospital of New Orleans, under internationally famed surgeon and teacher Dr. Alton Ochsner as well as Dr. Michael DeBakey.  He was certified by the American Board of Surgery and Board of Thoracic Surgery.  Harvey’s salary as an intern was $10 per month, so Jane worked as a kindergarten teacher and a tutor to help support them.  They were blessed with the happiest of marriages and would eventually have four children. Harvey always said that since he worked such long hours, Jane really raised the children; but Harvey was a dominant force in their lives, providing an unparalleled example of integrity, hard work, and unwavering support.

After completion of his surgical training in 1946, Harvey and Jane moved to Jackson.  Dr. John W. Barksdale, prominent surgeon, was nearing retirement, and he urged Harvey to consider Jackson.  More important, Harvey’s mother was originally from Woodville and had remained loyal to Mississippi. One of Harvey’s first goals once he began practicing was to buy his parents a home of their own, and he did so, moving them to Jackson, where they lived next door to Jane and Harvey for the remainder of their lives. Harvey practiced surgery for 43 years, operating on thousands of patients.  He was considered the dean of Mississippi surgeons for many years. He established (with Dr. George Twente) the Surgical Clinic PA, which has attracted many outstanding surgeons to Mississippi.

He was quite active in the early development of the University of Mississippi Medical School, serving as clinical professor of surgery for many years.  He was a member of local, state, and national medical associations, serving as president of the Southeastern Surgical Association and governor of the American College of Surgeons.  He was a member of the Surgeons’ Travel Club, Southern Surgical Association, American Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and International Society of Surgery.  He published many surgical papers.

Dr. Johnston was a longtime member and vestryman at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral and helped with the formation of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, serving as vestryman and warden. He served on the board of directors of Mississippi Power and Light (Entergy), Unifirst Savings and Loan, Country Club of Jackson, and many other civic organizations.  He was a trustee in the early years of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. His deep integrity, along with his savvy insight and forthright manner, made him sought after for leadership positions.

His devotion to his wife of 62 years was unbounded.  He lovingly and tenderly cared for Jane during the last difficult years of her life; and he did so not only uncomplainingly but with deep joy.  Every moment with her was a treasure to him. She left his arms but never his heart.

He surprised his friends and family by his easy adjustment to a long retirement, enjoying his wife and family, golf, fishing, and reading.  Gregarious and outgoing, Harvey was quite a sport, always ready for the next round of golf, fishing or hunting trip, lunch with friends, or just a visit. He liked to say that he was particularly grateful and indebted to the Senior Golf Group of the Country Club of Jackson, who tolerated his high handicap.  The truth is that Harvey was a man of boundless energy who exuded joy; he could tell a joke better than anyone and had a seemingly endless stream of stories, many of which were true. Up until his death, he enjoyed lunch gatherings with the ROMEO Club (Retired Old Men Eating Out); and he never missed early church at St. Andrew’s.

During his final years, Dr. Johnston was particularly grateful for the friendship and care he received from Charlie Brown, Mary Alice McLaurin, and Quinton Burns.

Dr. Johnston was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Edna Maie Ariail; and his beloved wife, Jane. He is survived by his four children: Jane C. Johnston and Dr. James H. Johnston III (Elta) of Jackson; Dr. William E. Johnston (Lynn) of Belton, Texas; and Elizabeth Johnston Beck (Tom) of Tallahassee.  He is also survived by eight grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and his sister, Anita (Jack) Powell of Birmingham.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Andrew’s Cathedral, P.O. Box 1366, Jackson, Miss., 39215, or to a charity of choice.

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Madison-Ridgeland Academy had a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the opening of the new middle school building and dining commons.