Kyle icon leaves his mark: Coach, publisher, superintendent dies at 84

STAFF REPORT

The “old-timers” around the Hays Consolidated Independent School District certainly knew him.

The newcomers might not know him, but he touched the lives of thousands of children who passed through the halls of the local schools.

He was known as Coach Johnson, Mr. Moe, Uncle MoMo, Superintendent Johnson.

The central administrative building is named after him.

William “Moe” Johnson died at the age of 84 Sunday, June 22.

Johnson served in all kind of jobs during his lifetime. Born east of Buda in 1930, he attended his 11 years of school at Buda, in what is now the original portion of Buda Elementary School. He formed his love of sports there, playing basketball for many years in the gym.

But his tales of growing up locally, and the things he and his buddy, former Hays Free Press publisher Bob Barton, did drew grins from all who would listen.

Johnson served in the Army twice. He graduated from high school in 1947, attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University) for one year before enlisting in the Army under the Universal Military Bill. He was stationed in Fort Hood and served as a gun chief.

When the Korean War began, Barton and Johnson both volunteered for duty — Johnson always said Barton talked him into it. Together they were sent to serve not in Korea, but in occupied Germany. They were both discharged in 1952, and Johnson returned to the area. 

Being a Buda boy, he crossed the “line” and married a San Marcos girl, Eugenia Crumley, known as “Gene,” and moved to Kyle. 

Again, he enrolled in SWTSTC, and as young “whipper snappers,” as Johnson recalled, Barton again talked him into another adventure — buying the Kyle News in 1953, after taking only one semester of journalism in college.

But Johnson was not bound to stay in newspapers. The following year, a long time Kyle basketball coach retired and the job was offered to Johnson. It was considered a big deal back then, as Kyle and Buda were major rivals, but Johnson succeeded as the Kyle coach and took his teams to state numerous times during his tenure. He was paid $2,980 per year, and that included $15 per month for helping in summer activities.

He and his wife wrote a book, “Panthers Fight, Never Die!” about his experiences as a coach of the highly decorated Kyle Panthers.

Johnson continued working in the Kyle schools, becoming Superintendent, but the times were changing. Smaller school districts had constant problems because of small property valuations. There was a need to bring students together, to form a consolidated school district.

A group of trustees from each of three school districts — Kyle Independent School District, Buda County Line Independent School District and Wimberley Rural High School District — came together and brought forth a plan to consolidate the districts. An election was held May 6, 1967, and Hays Consolidated Independent School District was formed.

And the first person to be hired as superintendent? Moe Johnson.

Johnson served in that role until his retirement 30 years later.

And during that time, he saw growth. The school district grew from barely more than 1,000 students in 1968 to 6,126 students in the 1997-98 school year. Johnson oversaw bond packages, building of schools, hiring of teachers and the expansion of classes.

In 1992, Johnson wrote a series for the Hays (County) Free Press, as it was called then, and extolled what he thought made the school district so popular and so successful: the teachers.

“Good teachers produce good students,” he wrote.

And it was Johnson’s leadership through the growing years that also made Hays CISD what it is today. He liked to hire good teachers, but he also liked to get the best out of parents and students.

When the football field was being built in 1969, he didn’t wait for contractors. He cajoled and helped dozens of local men and women as they worked to build the stadium. From getting caliche delivered, to welding the grandstands, to using oilfield pipes to serve as light poles, skilled workers who were the backbone of the Hays CISD community came together — under Johnson’s direction along with many others — and a new stadium was built.

It was a community project.

Johnson built a community, serving as the head of a school district that brought three tiny and very different school districts together.

He touched many lives in that way.

More than most local newcomers even understand.

 

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