Manson B. Johnson II, a beloved pastor who led the Holman Street Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, for more than 40 years, joined a growing list of Christian leaders who've died from the coronavirus. He was 71.
Johnson, who has led the church since 1977, died on Sunday morning due to complications from the coronavirus, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's office confirmed with the Houston Chronicle.
The church also announced Johnson's passing on its Facebook page but did not highlight his cause of death.
"It is with a heavy heart but faith in God to report Shepherd Teacher Manson B. Johnson has transitioned to his Heavenly home this morning. Our Shepherd Teacher loved serving God and God's people. We find strength in knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with God," the church said. "At this time please keep our beautiful First Lady, his children, family, Holman Street Baptist Church family, East Side University - ESUVCLC, and the entire Houston community in your prayers."
Johnson, whose father was also a pastor and mother was a teacher, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but grew up in Starkville, Mississippi. He moved to Texas after graduating high school to study history and government at Texas Southern University, one of the nation's largest historically black universities.
It was while at Texas Southern University that Johnson started attending Holman Street Baptist Church where he first became a youth pastor. He would become a teacher after graduating and excelled in the profession before moving to full-time ministry.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, praised Johnson for his work with his church and his community and called him a "giant among men" in a statement on Twitter shortly after his death on Sunday.
"Houston has lost a giant among men. Pastor Manson B. Johnson was a diligent shepherd at the Holman Street Baptist Church for more than 43 years. He had a passion for truth and fought to create opportunities for vulnerable people," she began.
"He had a direct impact on providing educational and housing opportunities for the greater Third-ward area, and was a valued member of the Texas Southern University family. He remained committed to the Word of God, and his outstanding pastoral ministry," Jackson continued. "Pastor Manson B. Johnson will be greatly missed and celebrated for his invaluable visionary leadership which has enhanced the quality of life for many in the city of Houston. My deepest sympathy to his devoted wife and all of his loving children. Rest in Peace my dear friend."
The Alumni Relations Office of Texas Southern University noted in a statement on Facebook that he was a major part of the school community.
"Pastor Johnson did phenomenal things in the many years of pastoral ministry. Both his religious ministry and his community involvement speak of a man who devoted his life to the Lord and the people he served," the office noted. "His presence and perseverance in our TSU alumni ranks was consistent. His work as a TSU Foundation Board of Trustee was treasured. Pastor Johnson was the very fabric that is Texas Southern University. He will be deeply missed."