Parades will bring Johnson full circle

Published 1:12 am Friday, November 10, 2017

Andalusia native Sam Johnson came home on Thursday to participated in today’s Veterans Day parade and ceremony in an event that he says will bring his life full circle.

Johnson, the younger brother Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, is a senior partner in the Atlanta practice of the Newport Board Group, LLC. But it his hobby that brings him home this week – piping.

Johnson said he is not particularly musical, although he picks a little guitar and a little banjo. But approximately 20 years ago, he took piping lessons.

“A friend of mine called me and told me my hero was on PBS,” he said. “So I turned the television over, and Glen Campbell was doing a fundraiser for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra.

“He started out singing the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace’ a capella, then he picked up a set of bagpipes and played a verse, then he played with the orchestra in the background.

“I looked at my wife and said, ‘That’s it. I’m taking lessons.’ ”

He is a member of John Mohr Mackintosh Pipes & Drums, a performance pipe band and competition pipe band. The band has performed throughout the Southeastern United States since it was founded in 1977. The group rehearses weekly in the Atlanta area.

Johnson said being a piper has offered him many great experiences, and he’s played at almost any event imaginable, including funerals and at least one wedding.

It was after taking lessons and joining the pipers that he researched family genealogy and learned his family is 90 percent Scotch-Irish with some Norwegian. Though bagpipes weren’t invented in Scotland or Ireland, they are often associated with the two countries.

It was when Johnson was about 5 years old that he recalls being on his daddy’s shoulders on the court square in Andalusia, watching the Christmas parade.

“There was a lone piper in the parade,” he recalled. “I remember hearing the piper and seeing him in the distance. I was always fascinated by pipes after that.

“So it’s like my life has come full circle,” he said Thursday, as he spoke of his plans to participate in today’s parade. He also will be back on Nov. 30 for Andalusia’s Christmas parade.