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Johnarline Hudson: Long Road to Bison Hill

October 28, 2009

Editor's Note: Oklahoma Baptist University alumnus Johnarline Hudson, a 1948 graduate, is a 2009 recipient of the OBU Alumni Association's Profile In Excellence Award. The award is given to a former student who has "demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.

For Johnarline Hudson, ex '48 -- a self-described Methodist Democrat from Arkansas -- attending Oklahoma Baptist University was never in her life plan. An unpleasant trip to a Washington, D.C., USO by Charles Hudson -- a Baptist Republican from Oklahoma -- during World War II essentially changed Johnnie's life and took her on a path leading to Bison Hill.

Dr. John Wesley Raley, OBU's president from 1934-61, was a friend of the Hudson family in Coalgate. Many Oklahomans were familiar with the family business, Hudson's Big Country Store, which was a landmark for 91 years. OBU President David Whitlock purchased his first pair of boots at Hudson's when he was a boy.

Raley encouraged Charles Hudson to attend OBU and enroll in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which was created to increase the number of commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Hudson left high school in his senior year to join more than 125,000 men enrolled in the program. They were spread across 131 colleges and universities during the war.

In 1942, Hudson attended training in Tennessee. He was sent to Washington, D.C., in November 1944 for temporary duty before continuing his studies at Harvard. Shortly after he arrived in the nation's capital, he visited a local United Service Organization center. The non-profit USO was created to provide recreation and morale-boosting activities for U.S. military personnel. A lifelong churchgoer, Hudson did not particularly like the center's atmosphere, so someone suggested he visit nearby Foundry United Methodist Church.

A couple years earlier and half a country away, a young woman named Johnarline Moseley attended Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., where she ran for the Senate her freshman year. Johnnie, as her friends call her, used the Andrew Sisters' song, "Oh, Johnny! Oh, Johnny! Oh!" for her campaign. While at Hendrix, she was recruited to be a "government girl." She joined her sister Virginia, who had previously been recruited by the FBI, to work in federal offices in Washington, D.C. For two years Johnnie was part of a female wartime work force several million strong, serving with G-2 Intelligence in the Pentagon as a secretary for an Air Force colonel.

Those were exciting days. Johnnie not only was aiding the war effort, but she also was in Washington when Roosevelt died and the when the war ended. She would stay all night in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, during such historic times.

While in D.C., the Moseley sisters visited Foundry United Methodist Church, joining in lunches, dinners and other events for servicemen and government girls. A dinner was planned for a nearby restaurant, and on the two-block trek, Johnnie caught the eye of Charles Hudson.

"Charles walked beside me on the sidewalk, and at this point he was still in bell-bottom trousers," she said. "I wasn't too impressed. Of course he managed to sit right by me at the dinner. We disagreed on everything at the table that Sunday."

By the time the sisters departed for another destination, all Charles knew about the young woman was that her name was Johnnie, she was from Arkansas and she had a sister.

"A week later, he called me on the telephone in my office at the Pentagon - where 25,000 people were working," Johnnie said. "I have no idea how he traced me down, but he was a determined guy."

In January, Charles went to Harvard for a semester, then on to the warfront in the South Pacific. In the meantime, Charles and Johnnie corresponded, and he decided she was the girl he would marry.

"All conversations centered around OBU because he had been there and he knew Dr. Raley," Johnnie said. "I got all the information about OBU, and I don't know how he had access to that in the Pacific. I imagine his father was sending it to him."

In August 1946, the couple married, attended OBU just as Charles planned and, after continuing their education at the University of Pittsburgh, they returned to Coalgate. Charles helped operate the family retail store, where they also sold insurance policies. The work merged into an independent insurance agency which Johnnie continued to operate for 23 years following Charles' death in 1977.

Johnnie also became deeply involved in civic and church activities. She worked in the Coal County Republican party as co-chair and treasurer. She helped secure a new Coal County library. She still serves as a volunteer in the genealogy room and as secretary of the Coal County Genealogical Society. She is a charter member of the Coalgate Music Club, and a lifetime member of the Oklahoma and National federations of music clubs, serving in all offices at the local and state levels. She has served on the board of directors of Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony in Eureka Springs, Ark., where she is a lifetime member. For 12 years she served as volunteer chair of Junior Music Festivals in Ada and Durant.

At the First Baptist Church of Coalgate, Johnnie worked for many years with students, taking them to Falls Creek each summer. She also served as a Sunday School teacher, choir member and Woman's Missionary Union director. In education, she was appointed by the Oklahoma governor to serve as a regent for Murray State College. She has served on the OBU alumni board and is a member of the President's Council.

Charles and Johnnie passed their affection for OBU on to their five children: John Hudson, '70; Stephen Hudson, '73; Candy Hudson, ex '72; Davis Raley Hudson, named for the OBU president; and Holly Hudson Rhoades, '86. Johnnie credits Charles with doing a good "sell job" about his beloved university and, once on campus, she gained her own appreciation for its merits.

"I like a Christian atmosphere, and OBU gave you that" she said. "You felt like your classmates and professors were on the same page."

She grew especially close to Lenna Smock, who taught in education at OBU from 1936-56. Her warm, friendly personality impressed Johnnie, and the Hudsons made a donation toward Raley Chapel in her honor.

Johnnie also established the Charles A. Hudson Memorial Scholarship for church music majors. Sixty-five OBU students have received the scholarship, with three scholarships awarded annually. For someone who never planned to attend OBU, Johnnie grew to love Bison Hill. She wants to help others have the opportunity to discover OBU, too.

"I wanted to give back to OBU what we had all experienced there and what we felt," she said. "I knew the students majoring in church music would always be influential people, wherever they go.

"That has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done - to start the scholarship and still have that connection to OBU and feel like I'm helping out somebody. It's important to give back when you've had good experiences and been blessed."

Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.