Alumni share memories of J.O. Johnson High School, demolition concerns

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 8:26 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - There are big plans for the former site of J.O. Johnson High School in Huntsville.

The campus was closed five years ago. Since then, city leaders and others have developed a plan to turn it into a Legacy Park. Last week, the demolition of J.O. Johnson High School began, which sent high emotions through the community and on social media.

“We’re just so connected to this school, and right now, I guess my feeling is that I’m devastated,” said Kason Henderson.

Henderson graduated from J.O. Johnson High School in 2005. His brother graduated in 2000.

When Henderson learned that his former high school would be demolished last week, he decided to go to see it and reflect on old memories. Like the choir room, a place he said helped shape him and many others who love music.

“Because it was the first thing I thought about and where I’m tied to the most. There is a lot of musicians and singers who are great in this city and got the training from this place, and we just want to say goodbye properly,” said Henderson.

Henderson and many others shared their memories on Facebook, posting pictures of old trophies that were destroyed during the demolition.

They also shared concerns that they weren’t informed that the school would be torn down.

WAFF 48 reached out to Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith, who said the city has been transparent since 2017.

“In the past three years, we have had 12 public meetings about the development of Johnson. Twelve, and they all have been documented, writing has been written, emailed and saved because we wanted the public to have input,” said Keith.

Keith said the agreement to tear down the school was because the building was beyond repair and the fire and police were unable to use the space. Now, the city plans to repurpose the property into a multipurpose development with new housing, a recreation center, now called the Johnson Legacy Center and an amphitheater.

“Huntsville is growing. I moved back here three years ago and enjoy all of the new developments, so it’s going to be beneficial in the long run, but as we move and transition, we want the community to embrace that vision,” said Henderson.

Keith said the work on the new amphitheater will begin in October and should be complete next year.

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