Born in Ozark, Ala., John E. Johns was the son of Thomas Maxwell Johns, longtime director of the Florida Baptist Children’s Home, and Susan Elizabeth Spires Johns.
Johns served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and flew 35 combat missions in the European Theatre aboard B-17 aircraft. A 1947 graduate of Furman, he received his master’s and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. Johns joined Stetson University’s history and political science faculty in 1948 and moved into administration positions before being named the university’s sixth president (1970-1976), where he was credited with putting the school in the black with increased endowment and a strengthened athletic program.
Johns was selected as the ninth president of Furman University and led the university from 1976-1994. During his term, Furman separated from the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 1992.
Martha Ann Mauney, a Shelby, N.C. native, graduated from Furman in 1947 and married Johns the same year. They had three children, John E. Johns, Jr. (1951-2009), Steven M. Johns, and Marcus M. Johns.
John E. Johns died in Greenville on September 27, 2007.