Like many faithful Ole Miss alumni, Jackson native Michael Johnson grew up an avid fan of the Rebels – a legacy instilled in him by his father, Larry L. Johnson. Now, through their family foundation, the two have left a more tangible legacy to their alma mater, having committed $250,000 to the Vaught Society/Forward Together campaign.
The Larry and Michael Johnson Family Foundation’s recent gift is one of many contributed to the University of Mississippi by the late Larry L. Johnson, a Jackson-area real estate developer, founder of The Landmark Companies, and oil and gas investor. In addition to being a committed contributor to the Ole Miss Alumni Association and Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, Larry Johnson established two separate Ole Miss First academic scholarship endowments in memory of his parents to support further education at the university for Baldwyn High School graduates.
With their generous donation to the Forward Together campaign, Michael Johnson continues his father’s commitment to giving.
“We believe that the current administration – especially Ross Bjork and Coach Hugh Freeze – as well as the coaches and student-athletes, have Ole Miss heading in the right direction,” Michael Johnson said. “While wins and losses are important, the positive perception that they have brought to Ole Miss is wonderful. As proud alumni, we wanted to do our part. It is vital that we all remain on the same page for Ole Miss to have success, but more importantly, continued success.”
The $150 million Vaught Society/Forward Together campaign was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss Athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. Campaign contributions thus far have surpassed the $130 million mark.
“Forward Together gifts like Larry and Michael’s allow us to compete at the highest level in terms of facility growth and enhancement but it’s more than a bricks and mortar investment,” said Keith Carter, executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and senior associate athletics director for development. “The campaign symbolizes our shared values and commitment to excellence as we continue to advance in the powerful Southeastern Conference. We are truly thankful for the Johnsons’ generosity.”
It’s the Athletic Association’s dedication to hard work and commitment to hiring outstanding leaders that sparked the Johnsons interest in giving at this time.
“We hope our gift will help continue the current success and contribute to future success,” Michael Johnson said. “The coaches and student athletes need the support and facilities that we, as alumni, can provide. It is our desire that our gift will help shape Ole Miss Athletics and Ole Miss in a way that will make us all proud.”
Carter believes it will: “We certainly appreciate generous donors like Larry and Michael Johnson. Larry gave above and beyond through the Vaught Society and instilled the value of giving in his son, Michael, who will now carry on Larry’s legacy for years to come.”
Larry L. Johnson obtained both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a law degree from Ole Miss. After graduation, he moved to Jackson, where he began his career in the booming oil and gas industry. During this same time period, Larry partnered with Bill McGuffee, his father-in-law, to create Landmark Homes. This joint venture would become the precursor to Johnson becoming one of the most successful residential (both single and multifamily housing) developers, constructors and owners in the Southeast. Over the last 25 years, Larry Johnson was responsible for the development of 3,000 single-family lots, more than 750 homes and some 5,000 apartments throughout Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Michael Johnson, who continues to run the family business, will always value the times he spent both at work and at Ole Miss with his father.
“My first memories of Ole Miss are going to football games in Jackson and Oxford,” Michael recalls. “We would always meet my grandparents and go to the games. It did not matter what the weather was like; we stuck it out. I remember tailgating and the days of cars in the Grove, and I think I remembered our seat numbers before I could my own home address.
“The countless hours we would get of excitement and joy – laughing, complaining and having heartbreak about Ole Miss sports – is priceless,” he continued. “From a very early age, it created a bond that I will cherish forever. Ole Miss Athletics via my father taught me so much more than simply wins and losses on the field but more about wins and losses in life. Winning the game is important – but winning in life is what it’s all about. And I believe that is why, given the current state of Ole Miss, he wanted to do this.”