Celebrating Athletic Excellence: Van Buren County’s Tammy Hodges Johnson

By Dr. Robert Reising

She is not parochial, definitely not. Her distinctive, multi-whammy credentials in three mutually enriching realms — the academic, the athletic, and the international — scream for respect. Over the decades, they have catapulted her to a variety of responsible positions, as well as to an abundance of impressive honors and awards, some in athletics, others in far different realms. Clearly, in the new millennium, Tammy Hodges Johnson would excel in any American educational setting.

Photo by Mike Kemp

Born in Heber Springs in 1964, within a year she had moved with her family to Clinton. Success and enjoyment filled her childhood and adolescence, including her public-school education. In Grades 7 through 12, she was a member of the Homecoming Court, and in her final four years, she joined the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), the Beta and the Literary Clubs, and the yearbook staff, serving as its editor as a senior.

Afternoons during her senior high school years found her in varsity athletics. The winner of 16 varsity letters, she was not only an All-District performer in tennis, track and softball but also one of the state’s best point guards in basketball, an All-District, All-Region catalyst crucial to bringing the 1983 state championship to the city she had grown to love. Campus and community were both enveloped in unprecedented ecstasy and pride when — 39 years ago — Arkansas’s highest basketball honor fell to the Women’s Team of Clinton. The pandemonium and joy were slow to disappear; the pride remains.

Later in the same spring, Tammy took the stage as president of her 1983 class, minutes before receiving an honors diploma. Awaiting her was a basketball scholarship at an Arkansas university. Yet, her baccalaureate plans did not include intercollegiate athletics. At the University of Central Arkansas, she preferred to give undivided attention to her studies. Enhanced if not launched by her FBLA experiences, she desired a tight focus on marketing, with a minor in health. She believed her future lay with understanding trade, commerce, job skills, leadership, and wellness. She knew participation in sorority life could enrich her people skills, and soon she qualified for membership in Alpha Sigma Alpha, nationally respected as Women of Pride and Purpose. She later served as its president.

It bothered Tammy little that, without a scholarship, she needed part-time employment to finance her study. She completed her Bachelor in Business with honors. More importantly, she was handsomely prepared for the future she sought.

Tammy called upon every strength acquired in the positions she held during the almost one quarter of a century that followed. Responsibilities were weighty, miles countless. Directing marketing and human resources (HR) involving 5,000 Texaco Refining and Marketing/Star Enterprise employees, she initially divided her time for eight years among 10 sites scattered throughout Florida. The subsequent nine years took her back to Clinton and to Voles/Belden Wire and Cable, but with “extensive travel in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.” As HR manager for Autoliv in Madisonville, Kentucky, for five years, she again traveled extensively, adding Europe to the list.

Prestigious honors were inevitable. In 1990, 1992, and 1995, she was named Texaco Star Performer for her excellence in marketing and human resources, and in June of 2008, Autoliv designated her “one of its top HR employees” and provided her with special executive training in Stockholm, Sweden.

In 2010, however, tragedy intruded. Tammy lost her husband, Doug Johnson, her Clinton High School sweetheart whom she had wed in 1987. Widowed with an 8-year-old daughter, she opted for self-employment as a business consultant before accepting a teaching/coaching post at her hometown high school and enrolling for evening study at her alma mater.

Although unexpected, the new chapter as business and technology teacher and coach has proven to be as fulfilling and successful as the preceding one. By the end of 2011, she had earned teacher certification, as well as her Master in Education (with her highest GPA thus far, a perfect 4.0). Her competence and confidence are inspiring as head coach of tennis and assistant coach of women’s basketball. The longer she serves as the tennis coach, the better her teams perform, the boys as well as the girls. In 2018, the girls had advanced to Top 8 in the state’s singles; two years later, the boys had leaped to its Top 4.

Hopes are high for the tennis program but no higher than for the team Tammy yearns to accompany one year soon to a AAA State Title. On both courts, she instills a host of principles from “the world of work.” She also applies those principles in her classroom, including learn how to lead and win; teams, NOT individuals, win; and competitive sports and competitive business mirror each other.

In Tammy Hodges Johnson, Clinton and Van Buren County have an asset best described by one of her student athletes: “Awesome!”

Bob Reising