Ben Edwin Johnson, son of Elza and Mayetta “Judd” Johnson, was born in Carthage on November 12, 1935. He graduated from Carthage High School in 1953. Ben married Karen Couch in 1961 and they had two children Christopher and Melissa, as well as adopted Roger, Katrina, and Matthew while serving as foster parents for more than 15 years.
After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, Mr. Johnson went to work for Eagle Picher Technologies. During his 32 years with the company, he was named on several patents. Ben helped design batteries for the space program including Skylab, the Lunar Rover and Apollo spaceships, and the lunar module that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts. Additionally, he held a patent in his own name for a solar panel design featured in Popular Science. Upon retiring from Eagle Picher, Ben was appointed by Governor Carnahan in 1998 to serve the remainder of an unexpired term as Jasper County Eastern District Commissioner.
Mr. Johnson was devoted to serving his community. He was elected to the Carthage City Council for three terms, including one year as Mayor ProTem. Ben was a member of Carthage Kiwanis, proudly carrying on the legacy set by his father of working at Kiddieland. He served on the boards of Carthage Water & Electric Plant, Powers Museum, Civil War Museum, and Jasper County Cemetery. As a steering committee member of the Carthage Heritage Festival Committee, Ben helped host several Civil War reenactments and area pow wows. He was a member of Carthage Rotary and the M.A.K.O. Fly Fishers Club, as well as a CASA Volunteer to advocate for abused or neglected children in the foster care system.
Ben was described by many as a dedicated and thoughtful leader who wanted to help citizens of Carthage and Jasper County. He passed away on August 3, 2017 and is buried in Park Cemetery. Ben’s father Elza was also inducted into the Hall of Carthage Heroes in 2014.