MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After being featured in film festivals nationwide, “1st Forgotten Champions: The Legacy of Jerry Johnson” comes home to the Indie Memphis Film Festival, October 21 - 29, 2020. The documentary chronicles the life and times of award-winning Coach Jerry C. Johnson, who served for 46 years as the head men’s basketball coach at LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC), the only HBCU located in Memphis. During his career, Coach Johnson led the Magicians to 821 victories, but his most notable was the 1975 NCAA Division III Championship. He became the first African American coach to do so and LOC the first HBCU. Coach Johnson, who is now 102, retired from coaching in 2005 and left a legacy that remains unmatched.
“1st Forgotten Champions: The Legacy of Jerry Johnson” was directed by Morreco Coleman, native Memphian and Memphis College of Art graduate. It features interviews with Coach Johnson, his former players such as Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and current LOC coach William Anderson, as well as other legendary professional athletes and coaches such as Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, John Calipari, and Josh Pastner.
The documentary has also been featured in the Burbank International Film Festival, where it won the award for Audience Choice Feature Film, and the Black International Film Festival located in Nashville, where it won the Best of Tennessee Award. For Coleman, inclusion in the Indie Memphis Film Festival is a high honor. He relocated to Los Angeles in 2015 after making his first film, “Gangsta Walking: The Movie”, a spotlight on the popular hip-hop dance that originated in the Bluff City.
“This film is an important part of not only Memphis sports history but also African American history and it’s only right that it be a part of the place we both call home and a great way to pay homage to a great man who helped shape many boys in Memphis into awesome men. Coach Johnson taught them how to win on the basketball court and life,” said Coleman. “It was an honor and pleasure to tell Coach Johnson’s story, and I hope everyone will find it in their hearts to not only buy tickets but view it with family and friends who may not be familiar with Coach Johnson and LOC men’s basketball team’s story of hard work and triumph.”
An in-person screening and Q&A will be held at STAX Museum on October 26, 6:30 p.m., but virtual tickets are also available to view on-demand now until the screening.
To honor the birthplace of Coach Johnson’s awesome contributions, the Jerry C. Johnson Foundation is purchasing tickets for LOC students, who are currently completing their academic semester, to view the film virtually.
“This documentary captures the rich legacy of excellence at LeMoyne-Owen College, and we are so proud that Jerry C. Johnson is being recognized for the impact he’s made on our institution and students,” said the college’s Dean Carol Johnson. “We know that our extended LOC family will support, and we strongly encourage our students to remain safe and take advantage of the JCJ Foundation’s generosity allowing them to virtually view the film at the Indie Memphis Film Festival.”
The newly-elected Jerry C. Johnson Foundation Chairperson June Chinn-Joiner is also excited about the possibilities this honor presents. “Morreco has made a wonderful award-winning documentary about a college sports icon. We are glad that the world now has the opportunity to learn about the legacy of Coach Johnson and that the documentary is being well received here in Memphis and abroad.”
The Indie Memphis virtual viewing is sponsored by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. To watch the trailer or purchase tickets, click here.