Clayton News-Star

New book tells Johnston’s history in photos

Telling a story in pictures is “Johnston County Revisited,” the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.

The book by local authors Todd Johnson and Windy Thompson was released June 15. It boasts many vintage images that have never been published and showcases memories of days gone by.

The book includes photos of actress Ava Gardner’s first airplane ride in Selma and the drugstore where she bought a bus ticket for her New York screen test in 1941. Images of Fred’s Hot Dogs and Hill’s Ice Cream Shop in Smithfield will evoke fond memories among Johnstonians over 60. H. Smith Richardson of Vick Chemical Co. reconnects in the 1940s with his family’s aged former slave, Sylvia Richardson Holder, who is said to have had a hand in concocting the VapoRub that became an American household name following World War I.

The book will be available at area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers.

About the authors:

Johnson, 51, is a native of Johnston County. His keen interest in local history comes honestly; his family first settled in present-day Johnston in the 1750s, not too far from his childhood home in Cleveland Township. He is a 1986 graduate of Campbell University with a bachelor’s degree in history and a 1992 graduate of N.C. State University with a master’s degree in public history.

Johnson is executive director of the Johnston County Heritage Center, and he is a former director of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield. Johnson also serves as vice chairman of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp.’s Board of Directors.

When not doing genealogical or historical research, Johnson serves as music director at Sharon Baptist Church in Smithfield. He recently earned a master’s degree in Christian ministry from the Campbell University Divinity School.

Thompson, born in 1954, is a native of Johnston County. Although Reubin Clifton Thompson Jr. is on his birth certificate, he was nicknamed Windy because he was born on a windy night. His dad said that as he was leaving the hospital, the wind almost knocked him down.

His roots go back to the Thompson Farm, near Brogden, where his family has lived for more than 250 years. He also has Johnston County roots in the Bentonville community from his mom’s side of the family.

Thompson graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He worked for 29 years at GlaxoSmithKline in pharmaceutical development and information technology. He retired in 2005.

With time on his hands, Thompson volunteers with the Johnston County Heritage Center, working closely with the photograph collection and helping people discover their family histories.