Sixty years, and counting
Perspectives On Line: The Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
NC State University

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Sixty years, and counting

In August, Dot Johnson was honored at a banquet for her years of Extension service.  (Photo by Herman Lankford)

For Dot Johnson, working for Extension in Lincoln County has fulfilled her dream of being a missionary. Johnson says she always wanted to be a missionary, but with no money for college, it wasn’t in the cards for her. After 60 years working as a secretary with Cooperative Extension in Lincoln County, Johnson feels she has indeed fulfilled her mission: helping people.

“I was glad I got into this because Extension helps people to live better lives,” Johnson said. “It’s all so wonderful what we do.”

Johnson was 17 years old in 1942, just out of high school and working as a waitress at a downtown Lincolnton drugstore. Women who worked at the nearby courthouse told her that the county Extension director, Graham Morrison, was looking for a secretary.

Johnson talked with Morrison that day, and she was hired on the spot. She began working for a salary of $50 a month, which was raised to $60 the second month when the state kicked in an extra $10.

At the time, few people, including Johnson, earned enough money to pay income tax. “I thought it would be nice to pay income tax,” she said.

As of August, Johnson has worked twice as long as most state employees do at retirement. She thought if she ever got to 50 years, she would retire. But that anniversary came and went, and 10 years later, she marked another milestone.

“I thought if I ever got to 50 years, I would quit. But it was so hard to stop,” she said.

On Aug. 1, Johnson was honored for her 60 years of service to Cooperative Extension with a banquet at the Citizens’ Center in Lincolnton. Representatives from Lincoln County government, N.C. State University and Extension administration were on hand for the celebration. It was an occasion for Johnson to reflect on all the things she would have missed had she left her job after 30 years. She would never have learned to use a computer, for instance. For many years, she said she couldn’t leave the office without her electric typewriter; now she feels the same about her computer.

She has worked for four county directors and outlasted countless Extension agents.

“You couldn’t ask for more from any employee,” says Kevin Starr, Lincoln County Extension director. “Dot puts a high priority on serving the client. If there’s any way for clients to get help, Dot’s going to get it for them.”

Phone calls have always kept Johnson busy, but early on she placed calls by telling a local operator the number she needed to reach.

Johnson was a charter member of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Secretaries Association and served as Southwest District president for several years. “It is a real good organization” she said, “and I’ve enjoyed being part of it.”

—Natalie Hampton


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