Archives director is true history buff
By Jennifer Shrader
Shannon Gavin Johnson majored in history in college, and always figured she’d go to law school.
About halfway through her undergraduate degree at Samford University in Alabama, however, she realized going to law school was just going to burn her out. So she became a teacher, but that didn’t totally satisfy her, either.
“I’ve always wanted to be hands-on,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed the research a lot more.”
Johnson is now surrounded by it, as executive director of the Troup County Archives and Legacy Museum. But she’s not a stranger to LaGrange or the archives.
She started working at the archives in 2009 as an intern, after approaching former director Kaye Minchew when she had to interview an acting archivist as part of her studies. She helped process museum collections and other documents. Johnson then went to Seattle, Wash., for a four-month internship at the National Archives Pacific Alaska Regional facility.
She then came back to LaGrange to be the full-time archivist and was named assistant director of the archives and museum in August 2015.
She even met her husband, Forrest Johnson, while at work. The son of Clark Johnson, who also works at the archives, Forrest was working a summer job at the front desk when the pair met.
The family now lives in LaGrange with their children, Hardy and Gunner and a dog, Ginger.
Shannon Johnson is a native of Fayette, Ala., and may have been bitten by the history bug as a child on road trips with her grandparents. The family would load up in the car and drive as far as funds would allow to battlefields and other historic sites. Alabama history is taught in fourth grade in that state, and her family took her to all the sites that would be covered that year to give her a head start.
“That’s probably what started my love of history,” she said. “I’ve always liked seeing it and kind of touching it.”
It’s an experience she hopes to bring to LaGrange, expanding on the programs and services already available through the archives and the museum.
“I’ve always been a big believer that communities that know their heritage can do more,” she said. “A community that’s better connected to its history can be more proud.”