On Friday evening, July 5, 2019, Our Heavenly Father saw fit to reward Johnnie Mae Watkins with her heavenly wings. It was almost her 92nd season on earth. Her homegoing reminds us that death is sure, and life is uncertain.
Johnnie Mae Watkins’ sunrise was August 25, 1927, in Malakoff, Texas. She was the 7th child of thirteen children of Sham Turner and Fannie Craven Turner-Mims, born with a veil. (Her grandmother predicted this was a special child believed born with psychic abilities, special destiny and good luck.) She was raised by her mom to use and believe in Johnnie’s unique gifts. She attended Henderson County Schools, and at the age of twelve, moved to Anison County, Texas, where she continued her education. At the age of 17, she moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to live with her older sister, Laurene Norman and graduated from the infamous IM Terrell High School. She received a basketball scholarship and attended Texas A&M University two years until she quit, wanting to go back home to help her work beside her mother, so she wouldn’t lose her farm.
Several years later when an opportunity came to move to Lubbock, Texas, to work at the newly renovated airport, Johnnie relocated. It was here, she would often tell people, “my life dramatically changed.” She met Rev. H.R. Watkins, fell in love and was married. To this union, four children were born; Evelyn, Camilla, Irene and Harrison. She remained faithful to her husband until his death in 1999.
With the blessing of being raised in a Christian home, Johnnie Mae dedicated her life to Christ and was baptized at an early age. This spiritual training would serve her well during her lifetime. She was a faithful wife, serving alongside of her husband, who founded and pastored many, many churches throughout his lifetime. This union enabled her to travel extensively throughout the United States and other parts of other countries. Over the years, Johnnie Mae accepted the role and challenges that came from serving as a First Lady of Baptist churches. She made a difference in the world and will genuinely be remembered as a leading lady, a committed Christian, a phenomenal pastor’s wife, and a magnificent mother and grandmother. She was effervescent, and was a shining example of humility, love, nurturing, and reverence. She was a beautiful, witty, wise, loveable and friendly. She was always an excellent example of class, dignity and respect. She had a special way with people of all ages. She was always available to help anyone in need. Throughout Lea County, she was known as a woman of wisdom and kindness. She sat up until the wee hours of the morning with members who were very ill or losing loved ones. She often visited the sick, hospitals and other care facilities, carrying homemade Jell-O, lotion, socks or some item to make those she was visiting feel better and special. She was very active in all aspects of the life of the churches. She held positions from the choir stand to the missionary board. She was a powerful prayer warrior, finance officer, kitchen coordinator, Sunday School teacher, Communion Stewardess, Children’s Advisor and Program coordinator, Moderator’s wife, Convention President Wife.
After her husband’s death, she remained faithful in service to the Lord at Pleasant Green Baptist Church where he had served more than three decades as pastor. Her glowing smile, fierce dedication and sincere devotion, will also be remembered by the New Mexico/Central Arizona Baptist Convention where she was the First Lady, and served in dual roles as secretary and Women’s Bible Teacher. She stayed in membership with the convention after husband’s death.
Spending quality time with her children and helping to raise them as successful adults was also very important to Johnnie Mae. She was a loving, devoted mother and her children were her daily inspiration and motivation. She had a vibrant and magnetic personality often put the wellbeing of them and others first. She loved traveling, studying the Bible and solving word puzzles. She experienced much joy by spreading the gospel and bought many to Christ. She never met a stranger and continued to be an inspiration until her health began failing. She will also be remembered for her beautiful penmanship and love that only comes from a faith-filled life. She was the last living matriarch of her family lineage and will be greatly missed.
Sister Watkins was the recipient of numerous awards, recognitions, declarations and citations for outstanding service within the church, state association and her community, including being recognized by the NAACP, New Mexico Office of African- American Affairs and the Governor’s Office for Outstanding Women in New Mexico.
She was preceded in death by her parents, 11 siblings, a stepsister, a daughter, Irene Brooks, a stepson, LeAndrew Watkins, a grandson, Keith, and a son-in-law, Gregory Rising.
Mother Watkins leaves to cherish her legacy of love and service, a son, Harrison (Brenda) Watkins of Hobbs, two daughters, Evelyn Rising of Hobbs and Camilla Watkins of Norm, Okla., eleven grandchildren – Ronnie Jackson, Johnny (Rikki), Lisa (Keith Wright), Brian Russell (Tracy), Shannon Watkins, Kelsie Watkins, Thurman Brooks II (Felicia); Angela Brooks, Bobby Brooks II, Rahman A. Rising, Crystal Washington; and twenty-seven great-grandchildren.