People of Etowah – Johnny Baker


Name: Johnny Baker

Where were you born and raised?

“I was born here in Gadsden and lived most of my young life here and in Cullman. At the early age of 18, I joined the United States Marine Corps and stayed in the Marines for over 30 years, living throughout the world.”

What is your occupation?

“I spent 30 years in the United States Marine Corps retiring in 1999 as a Sergeant Major. In Jan 2000, I was hired as a computer technician with Gadsden State Community College. I was ultimately selected as their GED Chief Examiner and for my last five years I was the Director of Adult Education at the college. I retired from Gadsden State in June 2016. I am currently the Toys for Tots Coordinator for Etowah and Cherokee counties, a volunteer position serving over 1,400 children from our area.

What made you decide to work in your field?

“The Marines was a calling. My Gadsden State jobs were a joy and volunteering as the Toys for Tots Coordinator is a blessing. I enjoy working with and helping people. Anyone that volunteers their time and effort would appreciate their own lives more if they just wanted to make a difference in another person life.”

Tell us about your family and pets.

“Janice, my wife of almost 49 years, two wonderful sons and nine grandchildren keep us busy, for sure. We travel throughout the United States several times each year and spend many trips to Savannah, Ga., to see our youngest two granddaughters. Our pet is a cockatiel bird that talks and whistles that really misses us when we are away.”

Describe an average day in your life.

“During this time of year (Oct. – Dec.), we are grossly involved with Toys for Tots. In October, we hold fundraisers for Toys for Tots on at least three separate weekends. The money that we raise at Johnson’s Foods and the two area Walmarts allows us the opportunity to purchase toys throughout the year. The wife and I are always looking for toy deals from area businesses to ensure we have toys ready for the following Christmas season.”

What school or schools have you attended?

“I graduated Gadsden High School in May 1969. I started Gadsden State in August 1999 and graduated with an Associate Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology in May 2001. I’m continuing to work on my bachelor degree, I graduated in June 2004 with a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology from Thomas Edison State College, West Trenton, N.J. I completed a Master’s of Science in Industrial Technology Education from Alabama A&M in May 2006.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“What free time? Riding my motorcycle is the best stress reliever and we enjoy traveling throughout the southeast on it. Gatlinburg, Tenn., seems to be a magnate for us.”

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

“Marrying my high school classmate and sweetheart and staying married for almost 49 years. Being a Marine for 30 years has been another major accomplishment.”

Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?

“My wife has helped me get to where I am in life, for sure. I have many family members and friends who have mentored me throughout life. One never quits growing and having those mentors and positive attitudes in your life is important.”

To what do you credit your success?

“Alright, this is getting old, but my wife has driven me to be successful. Personally, living with the three words of honor, courage and commitment. Honor to our God, family and country. Courage to always do the right thing, and commitment to serve and to always do our best.”

Are you involved in any service organizations?

“The Marine Corps League is a national military service organization with about 66,000 active members. Being a member since 2001, I currently hold the position of National Junior Vice Commandant. Along with 13 other Board of Trustee members, we have the fiduciary responsibility to the operation of this national non-profit organization. Locally, I am the coordinator of the local Toys for Tots program.”

What is your favorite thing about this community?

“Gadsden is an awesome, small town atmosphere community that most people that have never lived outside the state might not appreciate. Living in Japan, Indonesia, Okinawa, Hawaii and many states within the continental United States has given me a sincere appreciation of Gadsden. Just a great place to live and work.”

What would you like to see change in the community?

“I would like to see less of our citizens in dire need of services and assistance. We have many great organizations that assist our citizens in need, but these same organization need help and funding themselves.”

What are three words that describe you?

“Honor, courage and commitment!”

What is something surprising that many do not know about you?

“I ride a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle.”

What is your favorite quote?

“It’s just a little thing, little things don’t matter, and everything is a little thing!”  Think about it!

What is on your bucket list?

“Travel to Alaska and return to Hawaii for a visit.”

What is your hidden talent?

“Having a hidden talent is not important but rather always trying your best at everything that you do.”

If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?

“Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump).”

What advice would you give yourself as a child?

“Live life to the fullest and have no regrets.”

If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email or call 256-547-1049.

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