Liberty City coach Sam Johnson was a hero

Luther Campbell, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Campbell remembers the man who helped him start the Liberty City Optimist Club for inner-city kids.

Sam Johnson, a 36-year-old Miami-Dade bus driver, came looking for me at the Luke Records office. He coached a team that played at Charles Hadley Park in the Central Miami Little League baseball club and wanted to talk about it. The kids, he said, had won the league championship consecutively for a few years. We hit it off right away.

Two years later, in 1990, Coach Sam and I founded the Liberty City Optimist Club. We established a baseball and football program for the boys and cheerleading for the girls. Under Sam's direction, the club became the largest in the Miami area, not only offering sports but also providing academic and computer tutoring to thousands of kids and their families in Liberty City for 20-plus years.

With the help of his wife Margaret, Coach Sam kept the organization afloat with a steady stream of public grants and private donations from celebrity athletes such as former and current Miami Heat players Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade. Former Miami Hurricanes football players Edgerrin James and Andre Johnson helped out too. New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco first showcased his talents playing for Liberty City Optimist.

Because of Coach Sam, the club is a valuable asset to Miami's African-American community. He was there for generations of black children who are now hardworking adults in Miami-Dade. He could have made millions of dollars pimping the kids to agents and talent brokers. Instead, he maintained a humble life. Coach Sam and Margaret raised their boys in an apartment in Brown Sub, a housing project in Liberty City. The couple recently lived in a small one-bedroom unit in Miami Lakes.

Sam passed away December 11. Until his last breath, he could tell you the name of every kid who was in the program and how long they had been part of the club. I have never met anyone more dedicated to helping Liberty City children than Coach Sam. He will be dearly missed.

Follow Campbell on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

 
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8 comments
Polly  King
Polly King

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Pukesgospelisalie
Pukesgospelisalie

Puke, if you were involved there was a hidden agenda in it for you. Fuck off Pukester.

Pukesgospelisalie
Pukesgospelisalie

C'mon Dj, you know them saucerlipped lil nigglets dont bathe.

Dj_lechter
Dj_lechter

Wait until the allegations of sexual misconduct surface. Did he teach the poor kids how to apply soap to their bodies too?

Sheresse
Sheresse

Coach Sam was an inspiration to my family and I, especially my brothers who were coached by him. I remember back in the late 1980's when my younger brother Ralph's surgery was on the brink of being cancelled because my mom did not have enough money to cover part of the surgical expenses. My mother, who was a single parent of five called Coach Sam and within an hour he was there, needlessly to say the surgery was a success. I know that Coach Sam is one of the reasons why my brothers turned out to be successful young men. He was like a father to everyone who was a part of Liberty City Optimist Club. Thanks for giving back to our community, you will be missed.

Bash Bros
Bash Bros

RIP SJ. Black & Gold will live on. Keep up the good work Luke

Pukesgospelisalie
Pukesgospelisalie

She called him and within an hour he was there to perform the surgery? The coach was also a surgeon? Wow!!!

 
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