Obituary for L.D. Johnson

L.D. Johnson passed away peacefully Nov. 12, 2023. 

For 89 years, L.D. brightened every room he entered with his relentless positivity, playful spirit, infectious laugh, and fierce love for his family, friends, and players.  L.D. was a hall of fame coach and a hall of fame man.

As he loved to tell his grandkids every time they drove past, L.D. was born under a tree in the Arkoma bottoms Oct. 25, 1934 to Clora and Henry Johnson.  He spent his formative years in Arkoma picking guitar, picking spinach, and playing every sport he could.  L.D. graduated from Spiro High School and Northeastern State University, where he played baseball.  

L.D. married the love of his life, Martha Johnson (yes, Johnson was her maiden name), Sept. 7, 1957 and spent the next 66 years building and living a truly beautiful marriage.  To watch L.D. and Martha’s love—to see the playfulness when they joked with one another, to hear Martha yell “D!” when he was being ornery, to see the tenderness when they held hands, to watch L.D. dutifully and proudly carry Martha’s purse from slot machine to slot machine at the Choctaw casino—was to witness true love firsthand. 

Coach Johnson found his calling at a young age and spent his life dedicated to coaching, teaching, mentoring, and investing in young people.  L.D. spent more than 30 years teaching history and English and coaching everything from basketball to baseball to track and field.  But L.D.’s true passion was coaching football, which he did with zeal and skill for more than 20 years.  L.D. won seven conference championships, seven district championships, had three undefeated regular seasons, and coached dozens of college athletes and the All-State South team.  As everyone who played for him knew, for L.D., coaching was always about more than making a game plan and calling plays, it was about making a positive impact on the players under his care.  L.D. loved his players fiercely and took as much pride in preparing them for football games as he did in preparing them for life.  As L.D.’s former players would attest, they would have run through a brick wall for him because they knew that he would run through one for them.  L.D. was always deeply proud of the lifelong relationships he forged with his former players.  As recognition for a remarkable career spent shaping his players and his community, L.D. was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame in 1984.  

L.D. was a renowned storyteller and loved nothing more than spinning a good yarn while his grandkids or his former football players (or really anyone) listened intently.  He loved to entertain with stories about playing country music on Garrison Avenue as a young man, about the series of National Lampoon’s-style detours on the family’s first trip to Disney, or about that time he won enough money in a poker game to buy an engagement ring to give to Martha, every story ending with L.D.’s signature laugh.  After he retired from coaching, L.D. could often be found holding court at the Spiro Tag Office vividly recounting every minute of football games from years past when his players would pay him a visit. 

The pride of L.D.’s life was his family.  He was a doting father and an adoring grandfather who looked for any excuse to treat his grandkids to a Braum’s ice cream cone.  L.D. took great pride in driving around town and showing off his grandkids to anyone who would listen.  And, of course, L.D. saved his best storytelling skills for those about his family, which he always told with his chest poked out just a little further.

L.D.’s life was also marked by his abundant faith.  L.D. came to faith in Talihina.  L.D. was in his first job as a coach and he and Martha would clean the Talihina First Baptist church at night for extra money.  In Talihina and far from home, their young family found a loving and welcoming community of faith and L.D. devoted his life to Christ.  L.D. lived out his faith with devotion and spent a lifetime modeling the definition of servant leadership.

A celebration of life for L.D. Johnson will be 11 a.m. Saturday at the Spiro First Baptist Church with burial to follow in the New Hope Cemetery in Spiro, under the direction of Mallory-Martin Funeral Home.

Viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, with the family visiting with friends from 5 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home.  You may leave an online tribute and sign his guest book by visiting   As L.D. would want, in lieu of flowers, please donate to your local Democratic Party Committee. We joke, but we know L.D. would appreciate that, please direct any donations to the Spiro High School Football program in memory of Coach L.D. Johnson in support of his beloved Bulldogs. (600 West Broadway, Spiro, OK. 74959)

As L.D. would say, he’s going to be out of pocket for a while, but we look forward to hearing his stories and his laugh one day again in heaven. 

He is survived by his loving wife of 66 years, Martha Johnson; his daughter Carla Kimmel and husband Rod; his son Mark Johnson and wife Rhonda; his grandchildren Christopher Kimmel, Matthew Johnson, Corey Kimmel, and Rachel Johnson, and his first great-grandbaby Patrick Kimmel. 

We all miss L.D. so much. 

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Craig Hall
Publisher, writer, photographer and teacher.