Community celebrates life, legacy of Dr. John M. long

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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Troy University has lost a legend. Dr. Johnny M. Long passed away at his home on Monday evening at age 94 after a brief illness and more than a year of declining health.

“Sometimes we walk among giants and don’t realize it,” said David “Doc” Kirby.

Kirby has known Dr. Johnny Long for 47 years and, in the early years, he didn’t realize what a giant of a man Long was.

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“Dr. Long brought me to Troy on a band scholarship and he was the most amazing mentor,” Kirby said. “He really cared for his band students. He was tough on us but only when he knew we could handle it.”

“Looking back, it’s amazing that Dr. Long even knew who we were individually. But, he thought we were all worth knowing. It never seemed like he was a big deal and you were nobody. He made you feel like you were important and seemed genuinely proud that we were his students and his friends. Dr. Johnny Long was giant of a man.”

Dr. Long, who served as director of bands at Troy from 1965-1996, was a past president of the American Bandmasters Association and is a member of the National Band Association’s Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors and the Alabama Bandmasters Hall of Fame. In 2010, Dr. Long was named honorary president of the National Band Association, and in 2011, was the subject of a feature piece for CBS Evening News on his continued involvement as conductor of the Southeast Alabama Community Band. In 2012, he was elected Honorary Life Member of the American Bandmasters Association.

He continued to serve the University as Director of Bands Emeritus and Professor of Music Emeritus.

Kirby said Long had an enormous influence on his students and on the university.

“He brought in outstanding college and military band directors as guest conductors,” Kirby said. “And, Dr. Long was not afraid to bring in conductors who were better known. He wanted his students to have every learning opportunity possible. It would have been hard to beat the quality of music educators made available to us. It was extraordinary. That is a part of Dr. Johnny Long’s legacy.”

Kirby said two of Long’s great loves were his students and music.

“Dr. Long was great fun to be around. He made a point of working hard but he made it fun to be in the band,” Kirby said. “He loved band and wanted to share his joy. What an incredible gift to have him on campus.”

Kirby said Long’s influence will continue to be felt here in Troy and in places far beyond.

“Hundreds of band directors, active and retired, will continue his legacy,” he said. “Dr. Long raised the level of the arts at Troy University. He will be long remembered and appreciated at Troy University.”

And Long’s influence will continue in the City of Troy for many years through the residents he taught and mentored.

Kirby said he could name 50 or more people who are movers and shakers in Troy who were members of Long’s bands.

“There are many people who live and work here because Dr. Long brought them here to be in his band,” Kirby said.

“I don’t know of anyone who has had greater influence in band than Dr. Long and I don’t know of anyone who has influenced more people in a positive way than he has.”

Carol Franks said, too, that Long made a difference in many lives and was a guiding force in her own life.

Although Franks didn’t attend college at Troy, Long hired her right out of graduate school in 1982.

“Even though I had no teaching experience, Dr. Long gave me a chance and I stayed at Troy for 35 years,” Franks said. “I will always be grateful for the chance at a job that I loved and at a place I loved.”

Franks said Long demanded a lot of his students.

“He required that his students work hard and practice hard and he encouraged them to always do the right thing,” she said. “He would encourage his students to ‘call your mother.’ He taught his students life lessons and doing the right thing was always the basis of his teachings, whether in school, at work or with family or friends.”

Franks and Long were fellow Rotarians for 20 years and, being musical, the two of them led the singing at the weekly meetings of the Troy Rotary Club.

“We always sang the Rotary song and Dr. Long liked to sing ‘My Country Tis of Thee.’ He was a loyal Rotarian and was a past president of Troy Rotary. He brought in many new members and always encouraged perfect attendance,” Franks said. “He was a good friend and he will be missed. I join the Troy University staff and alumni and the Sound of the South in sharing the sadness of his death.”

A native of Guntersville, Dr. Long was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha, Delta Chi fraternity and Phi Eta Sigma. He was an active guest conductor, speaker, clinician and adjudicator through the United States, Europe, Canada and Mexico. In 2005, he was honored by the Alabama Music Educators Association with its Barbara Odom Award for lifetime achievements in music education, and holds the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the National Eagle Scout Association.

During his 31-year career at TROY, Dr. Long also served the University in various capacities, including chair of the music department, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and dean of the School of Fine Arts. Two buildings on the Troy Campus bear his name – John Maloy Long Hall and the Hawkins-Adams-Long Hall of Honor, which houses the NBA’s Hall of Fame.

Under his direction, the University’s “Sound of the South” marching band represented the state in two presidential inaugural parades (Nixon and Reagan) and served as the official band for two presidential visits to Alabama.

“Dr. John M. Long was the Director of Bands from 1965 – 1996. During that time, he built the band program into one of national prominence and quality. He has produced thousands of band directors and musicians who have gone on to careers throughout the United States in all areas of music and music education,” said Director of Bands Dr. Mark Walker.

“Dr. Long loved his students, family, friends, and Troy University. His influence is evident in band directors throughout the country. He will be sorely missed and forever remembered,” he said.

Before coming to Troy University, Dr. Long directed several high school bands in the state of Alabama, including a stint as band director at Marshall County High School before even receiving his high school diploma and Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee High School, recognized as one of the top high school bands in the country during his tenure. Hundreds of his former students have followed him into the career of music education.

He served in the U.S. Army as a bandsman in World War II, serving in Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

He completed his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville State University, a master’s degree at the University of Alabama and received an honorary doctorate from Jacksonville State.