In 1963, Joe Johnston founded the Johnston Insurance and Real Estate Company in downtown Statesboro.
The company was a full service agency, offering insurance, real estate, and appraisal services. Johnson passed away in 2009, but his legacy lives on today as the three businesses operating within his original company continue to flourish 50 years after their founding.
Over the years, Johnston sold each division of his company to individuals that had worked for him. Today those companies are Lee, Hill and Johnston Insurors, Prudential Kennedy Realty, and Hulsey-Johnston, Inc.
In 1986, John Lee and Pratt Hill bought the insurance division, and it has become one of the most decorated insurance agencies in Statesboro with 15 employees. Lee went to work for Johnston in 1982.
"I was about to go to work for another company, and was moving from Statesboro to do that," Lee said. "I went over to talk with Joe about listing a house for me, and we just got to talking. I said I really didn't want to leave Statesboro, and he said he was too bad that I didn't know anything about insurance. Well, he took a leap of faith in hiring me, and I am eternally grateful to him. He was like a second father to me as mine had passed away in 1979."
Hill merged his firm Hill and Olliff Insurance and Real Estate with Johnston Insurance and Real Estate in 1983. Lee and Hill bought Johnston's insurance interest out in 1986. They moved the company to its Savannah Avenue location in 1991.
"I would like to thank Ed Olliff for giving me the opportunity of getting into the insurance business, and thank Joe for giving us the opportunity to merge our two agencies together, and to thank John Lee for our partnership since 1986," Hill said.
In 1989, Johnston purchased the Prudential Real Estate franchise, changing the real estate portion of his business to Prudential Johnston Realty and selling a minor share of it to Everett Kennedy.
"My mother (Marjorie) went into real estate in 1980, and when I was a senior in high school, she talked to me about getting my license to help her part time," Kennedy said. "I got my license in 1983, and started for Joe Johnston part-time while attending Georgia Southern. This was before the days of cell phones and fax machines. Joe often referred to me as "young Everett"."
Kennedy said when fax machines first appeared, he remembered asking Johnston about getting one.
''Joe said, 'well who are we going to fax anything to? Nobody else in town has one," Kennedy said. "At that time, all of our contracts were filled out by hand or on the typewriter."
In 1994, Kennedy purchased the remaining interest in the realty company, and Johnston continued on in sales. The realty company remained on South Main Street until 2006 when Kennedy moved it to the Market District.
"At that time, we changed the name to Prudential Kennedy Realty, a decision which Joe supported after much thought and consideration," Kennedy said.
In 1986, Marion Hulsey purchased the appraisal arm of the company creating Hulsey-Johnston, Inc.
"The one thing about Joe that put him ahead of his time was his ability to network," he said. "He was a great pioneer in that area. I am so thankful that I got to work for him."
Kennedy said he has many fond memories of working for Johnston.
"He had such a wealth of knowledge in real estate and business in general, and was a very generous man who was eager to pass on the many tricks of the trade that he experienced over his long successful career," Kennedy said. "Joe was from the "old school", and believed in hard work, treating the customer fairly and always doing the right thing. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for and learn from Joe. While very stern when it came to work, Joe was a pleasure to be around and always had a great sense of humor."