Johnny Braxton McDaniel

A memorial service will be held Saturday, December 11, 2021 at 2:00 p.m at Main Street United Methodist Church for Mr. Johnny Braxton McDaniel, 92, of Hattiesburg, MS with visitation beginning at 12:00 Noon Saturday.

He passed away peacefully at home  August 16, 2021 after an extended illness.

Inurnment will be in the church columbarium following the service.  Rev. Todd Watson will officiate.

During his 92 years, Johnny worked as student and athlete, Army officer, public school coach and chemistry teacher, university professor and administrator, physiologist and clinical director of wellness programs.

The son of Jesse and Inez McDaniel, Johnny grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi with five sisters and two brothers.  At Tupelo High he played on the football team that won the Big Eight Conference Championship in 1945 and also lettered in basketball and track.   He studied at Ole Miss his freshman and sophomore years. He played on the football team as a walk-on and joined Phi Delta Theta.  After a former Tupelo teammate recruited Johnny to play for Mississippi College, Johnny transferred to MC.  Following graduation with a master’s degree, Johnny coached and taught at Lawhorn Junior High in Tupelo. 

In 1950, he was sent to Korea where his duties as U.S. Army Sergeant First Class included calibrating the big guns.  Johnny first learned to drive a vehicle when, after most of his unit had suffered casualties, the NCO ordered McDaniel to take the half track down the mountain to bring back ammunition.

Johnny took up civilian life again in 1952 as chemistry teacher and coach at Clinton High School.  Signing up as football coach and assistant in basketball, he later became track coach and head basketball coach.  His CHS women’s basketball team played in the state championships in 1954 and 1955.  When Murrah High School opened its doors for the first time in 1955, Johnny started there as chemistry teacher and coach in football, basketball and track.  Named head basketball coach, he took the men to the Big Eight Conference Championship in 1957, the first big title in the long winning tradition at Murrah.  During summers selling real estate from the office of MC Coach James Q. Allen and Gladstone Williams, Johnny met Linda Elkins in the  Clinton office.  They married in 1966.

In 1967, he moved to Hattiesburg and the University of Southern Mississippi, where his wife Linda taught while he pursued a doctorate degree.  After he received his Ed.D., Johnny joined the faculty at Delta State University in Cleveland, where he taught statistics, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology.  His studies with the College of American Sports Medicine led to the first wellness program at Delta State.  He also headed the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation as Chair at Delta State. After spending more than 30 years in public education in Mississippi, Johnny would continue special friendships with students, athletes, and colleagues for the rest of his life.

His move to the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where he was involved in setting up the school’s first wellness program, also allowed for advanced studies with the College of Sports Medicine and his certification as Preventive/Rehabilitative Exercise Specialist.  On his return to Mississippi, he numbered among the staff who first opened the doors of the Institute of Wellness and Sports Medicine in 1986 at now Merit Wesley Hospital in Hattiesburg.  He worked there for nearly 25 years, as physiologist in testing and clinical director of cardiac rehab. After retirement, he continued part-time until age 82.

Johnny participated in community service over the years, as speaker for civic, women’s, and business clubs, nursing homes, for church, scout, and military groups.  For decades, he volunteered with the American Heart Association, often as a member of the speakers’ committee or as a tech at health fairs.  If a charity walk or run took place in the area, he entered it or managed the emergency first aid booth.  He also played many roles in professional organizations.  He served as officer in several positions in state, regional, and American HPER associations, regularly receiving service and honor awards or special awards.  He was also a founding member of the Southern Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and he led  workshop sessions and evaluated testing for the American College of Sports Medicine.

He very much appreciated the blessings of faith and fellowship as a member of Main Street United Methodist Church, the Quest Sunday School Class, and the church family.

With his wife, Johnny also enjoyed hosting family and friends, visiting in turn, and traveling together with them—whether to Lake Bruin, Boston, or London.  He regularly organized backyard games or building projects at gatherings.  He still found time for decades to run every day.  Friends and family can quote his funny sayings, such as “You never know how you look until you get your picture took” or “The difficult takes time and the impossible a little longer.”  On Good Fridays, he planted his vegetable and flower gardens.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse Britt McDaniel and Inez Rogers McDaniel; his sisters, Jesse Meacham (Paul), Grace Shaddix (Herbert), Annelou Johnson (Johnny), Gayle Long (Carl), and Alice Inez Walker (Bobby); his brothers, Roger McDaniel (Peggy) and George McDaniel; by his father- and mother-in-law, Ernie Elkins and Maxine Courtney Elkins; brother-in-law Bill Elkins, and niece, Gayle Walker Smith and her husband Bill.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Linda Elkins McDaniel; sisters-in-law Andi McDaniel, Joan McDaniel, and Shea Elkins; brothers-in-law Russell Elkins (Melba), Buzz Elkins (Suzy), and Buddy Elkins (Paula); by two dozen nieces and nephews, their spouses, children, and grandchildren.

Gratitude for his care and support goes to many, especially to Edna and Milton Hilton and Storie Hilton for their strong and tender, extraordinary caregiving.  Also great appreciation to Howard Franklin and his staff at the Transitional Care Unit at Merit Wesley Hospital, to Heart of Hospice, and to St. Joseph’s Hospice.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association,  Main Street Methodist Church, PO Box 1009, Hattiesburg MS 39403, or a local food pantry.