Remembering Johnny Baker
Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Last week, the Picayune community lost a mentor and award winning band director, Johnny Baker. He was 76.
According to his obituary, during his time as the band director, from 1971 to 1978, Baker led the Picayune Memorial High School band to become a top performing group, bringing home superior rankings at the State Band Festival. Prior to that, he was the band director at Hazlehurst High School from 1967 to 1971.
Baker’s daughter, Becky Charlton, said his love of music came from his own father, Bobbie Baker Sr., who taught him how to play the trumpet.
His creative nature was not only spent on music; Charlton said that no matter what Johnny Baker put his mind to, he gave it 100 percent.
However, since the education field did not provide much money, Baker would later open Baker’s Jewelers in Picayune, a business he and his wife of 52 years, Georgia, would operate from 1981 to 1991. During that time, Johnny Baker traveled a lot to surrounding states, sometimes as far away as Southern Indiana to sell jewelry, Georgia Baker said.
His dedication to work rubbed off on his children. Charlton said she and her brother, Johnny Baker Jr., have at times been accused of being workaholics, a trait Charlton said she learned from her father. As a child, when Charlton was learning to dance or twirl rifles, she said her father would never accept “good enough.”
“You were constantly being pushed to improve and go a bit harder and faster,” Charlton said. “He could be quite difficult, but at the end of the day that made you a better person.”
Even simple things like gardening and decorating the house for Christmas were done to his best, Georgia Baker said. Charlton said people would come from all over to see his Christmas light displays.
As the band director, and as a father, he had an impact on everyone he came into contact; many people consider Baker to be their second father, Charlton said.
His influence through music didn’t end when he left the education system. He would later establish the Pearl River County Community Band in 2008, which was comprised of some of his former students.
Baker’s accomplishments were recognized in 2009 with the Pride of Picayune award and in 2015 with the Senior Citizen of the Year Award, both from the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce, according to his obituary.
In addition to his wife and two children, Baker is survived by six grandchildren, one great grandson, his brother, Bobby Baker, Jr.; and his sister Bonnie Provine.
Visitation will be held on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at McDonald Funeral Home in Picayune, with funeral services planned for Saturday at 10 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Picayune.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the children’s and youth funds at First United Methodist Church.