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Watauga Commissioners Table Request to Rename Library in Memory of Johnson Until Policy Is Drafted

By Jesse Wood

Evelyn Johnson stands in front of the Watauga County Public Library, where she worked for more than 36 years. Her favorite color was purple.
Evelyn Johnson stands in front of the Watauga County Public Library, where she worked for more than 36 years. Her favorite color was purple.

Feb. 5, 2013. On Tuesday morning, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners tabled a request to rename the Watauga County Public Library in honor of Evelyn Johnson, the late librarian who worked there for more than 35 years.

Commissioner Billy Kennedy and Chairman Nathan Miller said they received many emails about the request. A vast majority of those, the commissioners said, were in support of renaming the facility the “Evelyn Shook Johnson Memorial Library,” however both added that some of the emails voiced opposition to the request.

“Some like the Watauga County Library as far as it being a public space and reminding people that it belongs to all residents to Watauga County. That was the only problem on that,” Kennedy said.  “I would like someway to memorialize her … whether naming the building after her or other options such as a plaque on the building.”

Each commissioner mentioned that they were in support of renaming the facility, yet each was hesitant to rename the facility without an official policy of naming county buildings.

Currently, the only county facility named after an individual is the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center.  Lois E. Harrill was the first Project on Aging Director who was killed in an automobile accident.

“I am certainly not opposed to this, but we will set a dangerous precedent by going out and naming buildings immediately with no policy,” Miller said, adding that he wanted to see county staff draft a policy regarding the naming of county facilities before proceeding, and then follow through on that policy regarding the current request.

“I just don’t want to do a knee jerk reaction that may have us naming all kinds of things,” Miller added.

Peggy Hartley, a patron of the library, stood before the board and spoke about Johnson.

“She started working there as a teenager and continued to work there after she could have retired,” Hartley said, reading from a letter. “It would take several lifetimes for anyone to touch as many lives as Evelyn did. Her work in the library and her support for the library were tireless and endless.”

County Manager Deron Geouque said that a drafted policy probably wouldn’t be ready for a vote by the next board meeting, which is Feb. 19, however its possible, he said, that it would be ready for the county’s annual pre-budget retreat on Feb. 22 and 23. 

Here is an article in memory of Johnson with quotes from her two sons: https://www.hcpress.com/news/the-watauga-library-and-community-will-never-feel-the-same-evelyn-johnson-passes-away-monday-afternoon.html