Opal Johnson was born in Carthage to Harry and Effie Delo on October, 4, 1910. She was reared in Webb City, graduating from Webb City High School in 1929. She and her husband Clifford were married in Webb City in 1933 but soon moved to Carthage where they owned and managed Johnson’s Grocery at Vine and McGregor streets until 1949, and then operated Johnson’s Cleaners until Clifford’s retirement. Opal and Clifford had two children, Joel and Patricia.
She became Civil Defense Director for the City of Carthage as a part-time volunteer in 1965 and served the remainder of her life in that position, seeing the job expand to full-time professional status. Opal was the first female graduate of the National Civil Defense Staff College and later attended numerous graduate courses and training seminars to keep abreast of developments in her field.
In 1969 Opal was honored as the Outstanding Civil Defense Director in the state of Missouri, and was elected president of the Missouri Civil Defense Directors Association in 1971, becoming its historian in 1975. She was also city energy director and served several terms as an officer of the Missouri Emergency Preparedness Agency, and was named president of the American Society of Professional Emergency Planners in 1978.
From 1973 to 1984, Opal served as executive secretary of the Carthage Area United Way, and was extremely involved with the modernization of that agency that occurred during that time. An active member of First Baptist Church, she was also a volunteer with the Eastern Jasper County Red Cross, served two terms as president of Carthage Business and Professional Women’s Club, and was president of Soroptimist International, Carthage Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, and Jasper County Council of PTA.
Opal was BPW’s Woman of the Year in 1960, and was named Carthage Citizen of the Year by the Lions Club in 1987.
Long active in the American Legion Auxiliary, she chaired I Love America week and inaugurated the annual City Government Day observation between the City Council and Carthage Senior High School Student Council. Long active in Pythian Sisters, she was Most Excellent Chief of the local chapter, and was elected Grand Chief of the state organization in 1972.
Opal Johnson passed away September 9, 1989, and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Webb City. She was a dedicated public servant, who loved Carthage with a passion, and is most deserving of inclusion in the Hall of Carthage Heroes.