A legacy of service, hard work, and love
Longtime mayor of New Boston, Johnny Branson, passed away last Wednesday, leaving behind a legacy of leadership and love of his hometown that was unmatched.
Branson grew up in Hooks and was a graduate of Hooks High in 1951. He was drafted into the Army in 1957 and was stationed at Ft. Chaffee in Ft. Smith, Ark. He served in the National Guard, Army Reserve and in the New Boston Volunteer Fire Department. He was also a Mason for 60 years, a Master Plumber (M4530) and owner of Branson Plumbing for 60 years.
Johnny gave his life to the Lord at an early age at First Baptist Church Hooks. In 1960 he along with his family joined First Baptist Church New Boston. He served as a deacon and chairman of the bus committee.
Branson first became a leader of local government in New Boston in 1964 as a member of the City Council. He served from 1964 to 1980, and then returned to city leadership as mayor in 1995. From 1980 to 1994 he also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Practically his whole life was spent guiding New Boston to where it is today.
To say that Johnny Branson lived a life of service to his fellow man would be a gross understatement. Community service was always at the heart of everything Johnny did. One of his greatest accomplishments was the creation of the new water treatment plants, which Riverbend just named in his honor. Other things important to Johnny were infrastructure, wet utilities, keeping taxes low for the citizens of New Boston, and serving the community and surrounding area to the best of his ability.
There is one thing that can always be said of Johnny Branson. He loved New Boston. He planted his roots here, he ran a successful business here, raised a son here that stayed here to make the town better, and Johnny took a town that once had a lone night watchman, and turned it into a city that is now prospering in the wake of his legacy. New Boston, and Bowie County, have a lot to thank Johnny Branson for doing, we really do.
Over the course of his time in city leadership, New Boston saw the opening of countless businesses, multiple plants and industries, the Barry Telford Unit, 3 Boslocation tons Museum and Visitor’s Center, the acquisition of T&P Trailhead Park and the construction of the pavilion that now plays host to popular events all year long.
The current mayor of New Boston, Ron Humphrey, said of his predecessor, “Johnny Branson was a powerful force for the City of New Boston. His leadership helped advance many important projects that have benefitted the city and I will always have the utmost respect for what he accomplished. My prayers are with his family as they deal with their loss.”
The fruits of Branson’s years of service to the community can be seen everywhere, and much of it he accomplished with a steadfast determination to stick to his beliefs, regardless of what people thought or said of him. He was seen by many as a tough man, but most did not see the Johnny behind the public figure, the Johnny Branson that would help anyone, the Johnny Branson that once handed the keys to a pickup to a man who had lost everything to a fire. That was who Johnny Branson truly was, a man with a servant’s heart and a giver’s spirit.
When Branson retired from the mayor’s office in 2020, his son, Kelley Branson stated, “As a family we all made sacrifices from time to time. Dad was running a business and a city at the same time. That takes a lot of time and hard work. And there is always going to be criticism – that’s hard to take, when you are volunteering your time, but we just had to understand that it comes with the territory. But when I think of the positive influence Dad has been on my life, and the lives of others, it makes it worth it.”
Kelley’s son, and Johnny’s grandson, John Fox Branson agreed. “All the time Grandpa has put in for the City of New Boston has taught me the work ethic that I have today,” he said. “Growing up with your grandpa being the mayor – it’s not easy. It was hard on our family sometimes. But he taught me to treat everyone with respect - to treat everyone the same – and he taught me the value of hard work. And when I see how this town has benefited from his knowledge and experience, I know it was worth it.”
His dedication to the people of New Boston was something that Johnny carried with him to his final breaths. In his final days, he still cared about his city, and have no doubts, New Boston was his city, and it will be forever in his debt.