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Forestry Alum’s Legacy Honored at Slocum Camp

The copper wolves at Wolf Plaza near Talley on main campus - Forestry Alum's Legacy Honored at Slocum Camp - College of Natural Resources News NC State University
The copper wolves at Wolf Plaza near Talley on main campus. Photo by Marc Hall

For Brady Johnson, a great education, a loving family and a lot of hard work have given him many gifts. But the best gift, he said, is the opportunity to pay that good fortune back — and forward.

Johnson, a 1998 graduate of the Poole College of Management at NC State, recently donated funds to the College of Natural Resources to name the newly renovated dining hall at Slocum Camp after his grandfather J. Baxter Johnson Jr., who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forestry from the College of Natural Resources in 1948. 

The dedication honors a major figure in Johnson’s life and recognizes his family’s shared love for NC State, while also providing for the forestry students who spend six to nine weeks each summer learning at the camp in the George Watts Hill Demonstration Forest in Durham County.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been blessed enough, lucky enough, worked hard enough to give back in ways that support the industry that helped my grandfather and my father, who was a forestry major too, to build a business that supported a family that has strong ties to NC State,” Johnson said. 

Johnson returned to NC State in 2001 to earn an accounting degree before enrolling at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to earn a master’s degree. He then worked in several cities and other industries before joining the family business, Baxter Johnson Contracting in Raleigh in 2009. 

When Johnson was just 10 years old, his grandfather died. But he remembers moments together like it was yesterday. “When I was a kid, he would take me to breakfast at Poole’s Luncheonette and then we would go ride around in his truck,” he said. “And sometimes, we’d go to a job where my dad was working and we’d watch dad run a bulldozer and that kind of thing.”

His grandfather looked like “someone right out of a Norman Rockwell painting” was “the consummate family man,” Johnson said. He was born and raised in Raleigh, and wooed his future wife by stopping by for a soft drink — several times a day — at the Pine Dug Company soda fountain where she worked downtown. 

The couple raised four kids in a small house on Lake Wheeler Road while Johnson Jr. ran the business he began in 1954. They’d often go mackerel fishing at Atlantic Beach. He was also good with a gun, earning the nickname “Dead Eye” from his friends for his success at quail hunting.

Johnson’s family dates back in Raleigh to the 1800s and sometimes, he said, it feels like everybody knows his grandfather and his family. He wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Forestry students who attend Slocum Camp never forget the experience. They form new friendships there that never fade. So honoring his grandfather at the dining hall of such a life-changing place for students feels right, according to Johnson, who said NC State has long been a touchstone for his family and extended family.

“I mean, it’s all I’ve known since I was a kid. It gives me a tremendous sense of pride, and everybody that I know has gone there,” Johnson said. “This school is home for a lot of hard-working people who go on to do things that we need in our society. And the College of Natural Resources and the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources are more important now than ever in conserving natural resources.” 

He added, “This school is home to me.”

You can join Johnson by making philanthropic gifts to the Slocum Camp Hill Forest Enhancement Campaign. Every gift helps the campaign reach its $1.5 million goal, no matter the amount. With one click, you’re not only back at camp with friends and revisiting some wonderful memories but also helping the College of Natural Resources make those memories come alive for students to come. 

For those who wish to solidify their summer camp legacy or honor the memory of a particularly inspiring professor, classmate, friend or loved one, naming opportunities are available for many of the camp’s facilities and trails. The names of all alumni and friends participating in a naming will be permanently displayed in a prominent place in or near the named location. 

This story was written by Beth Grace for the College of Natural Resources.