Cavalier Corner

June 2019

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cavalier sports 8 CAVALIER CORNER Asa Johnson Jr. understands the value of an education and the value of giving. Johnson began his academic journey and his short career as a student-athlete in 1949. "Back then, first-year students could not play varsity sports," Johnson said. "So I played one year and then Uncle Sam called." Johnson was drafted and stationed at Fort Meade in Maryland. "I never got out of the states," he noted. "I was in a missile battalion manning anti- aircraft artillery. We actually had the Wash- ington-Baltimore defense area for the first ground-to-air missile." After his two-year enlistment, the Franklin, Va., native returned to Virginia to continue his education — but it did not include basketball. "When I came back, they had Buzzy Wilkinson and they didn't need me," John- son explained. "That was 1952." The new Army veteran enrolled in the Curry School with plans to become an Eng- lish teacher and a coach. "By that time I had gotten married and had my first child while I was back in school," Johnson, who received his B.S in Education in 1959, said. "I didn't have time to play ball or do anything. "I worked at the Safeway Supermarket in Charlottesville about 28 to 30 hours a week and went to school full-time. "Ted Davenport gave me a job taking tickets at all the ball games and he paid me five bucks a game. I worked hard and got through it." After a year of teaching and with a second child on the way, Johnson realized he needed a higher paying career. His UVA degree opened the door to a human resources posi- tion with the Union Camp Corporation in his hometown of Franklin, where he worked as an executive until his retirement in 1996. "I was very pleased and proud that I had a degree that said University of Virginia," he said. "That helped me in getting work. That piece of paper." Johnson has been a Virginia Athletics Foundation supporter since 1983. "Every year when I send my check to the VAF, I get a call from one of the students, one of the recipients," he said. "That means a lot. They do appreciate it." But his support for his alma mater doesn't end there. In 2014, he endowed the Asa B. Johnson Jr. Scholarship at the School of Education. "I know the students appreciate all the help they get," Johnson added. "When I went to school I got a $250 scholarship. That, I think, covered tuition, believe it or not, for the whole year; $125 or something a semester. It was unreal. It was very, very little and it was most appreciated. "One of the things I'm most proud of is being able to give that educational scholar- ship. It has nothing to do with athletics. It has to do with academics and graduating." Johnson said he is also very proud of UVA men's basketball head coach Tony Bennett and his team's NCAA champion- ship run in March, calling it "Amazing!" "I was thrilled to death," Johnson noted. "I wasn't sure I'd ever live long enough to see it because we went through some pretty lean years in Charlottesville before we got to the Tony Bennett era. "Thank God we have him." Though his basketball career was short- lived and his time as an educator was re- placed with the white-collar corporate world, Johnson has never lost his passions for Virginia athletics and an outstanding education, and continues to support both. — Greg Waters Asa Johnson Jr. WAHOO NATION Johnson (far right) was a member of the UVA basketball team in 1949, but then had to serve a two-year enlistment in the United State Army. PHOTO COURTESY ASA JOHNSON JR.

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