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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Marriage, farming, and community development

Johnson talks about his life outside of NASCAR. Johnson first describes his relationship with his wife, whom he describes as his childhood sweetheart, friend, and business partner. Johnson particularly describes how he and his wife worked together in order to operate their farm in Wilkes County, North Carolina, where they both grew up. In so doing, he broadens his discussion to cover changes in the community, particularly in terms of economic growth.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PETE DANIEL:
Well, let's move on and talk a little bit more about your personal life if you don't mind. Like, could you just tell me when you got married? How are met your wife and a little bit of that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, my wife is basically a young sweetheart from, you know, fourteen years old. We knew each other all of our lives, and we grew up together. We dated and run around together and went to the race tracks. Like when I was growing up and driving at local races Saturday night, Hickory was about thirty mile away, and we'd go to the races and back on Saturday night. I basically growed up with my wife. She's not only been my sweetheart, she's been my friend. She's a big part of what I've accomplished - without her I don't think I could accomplish nothing.
PETE DANIEL:
Did she help you manage any or do any of the work?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
She has a lot to do with our managing of our race team and our business. We're in the poultry business. We have a very large herd of cattle, and we have 178,000 chickens that we grow for Holly Farms. We have other interests besides just racing so she looks after a lot of that stuff. She kind a takes care of our, you might say, home life, more so than I do because I make major decisions and I do major things overall, but we have guys that looks after the farm and runs that part of our business just like the ones that run our racing office.
PETE DANIEL:
I was going to ask you about that anyway. What other kinds of business interests you have? You say you have poultry and cattle.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We've been in, both of us is first a farmer. Then I got into racing, and it's been part of both our survival. I don't think we'd be happy without our farm. It's what we growed up with, what both of us like to do. Racing's been good to us. You know, we don't want to be, if somebody says, "Well, we've got what we want out of racing. We gonna take it and go." We're not gonna do that. We've got a lot out of racing, and we want to give part of it back.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, when you grew up in Wilkes County, it must have been one thing, and when you go back to it now, it must have changed a whole lot. Could you elaborate just on how life has changed in those years since you grew up there?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, when I was growing up a boy in Wilkes County, the roads basically was all dirt. We didn't have no real good roads. Nobody much had a car. You walked about ninety percent of the places that you went. Nobody didn't have no money either. If they weren't fooling with whiskey, like I said before, or selling some of the products it took to make moonshine, they didn't have no money much. So as Wilkes County has progressed and come along, the moonshine businese kind a died out. There's a company come in there, name of Holly Farms, that started a tremendous poultry industry from scratch. A little company that kept growing and growing and growing. Most everybody in Wilkes County started growing chickens for this poultry business, and it's been the life saver of our county, Wilkes County. It and a company called Lowes Hardware has produced jobs, facilities, and stuff for people that made a tremendous change in our economy of the county. I think now it's one of the greatest counties that we have in North Carolina. We certainly have the greenest, best farming, fertilization type situation with the poultry business there of anybody I know of.