Category: News

Brazos Past: Johnson family embraces business, horses

A sprawling 1,000-acre ranch east of Robinson, off old Farm-to-Market Road 434, is home to two businesses — Johnson Roofing and JMB Ranch Co. And unless you’re a member of the “horse set” in McLennan County, you proably are more familiar with the former than the latter. The story of how the Johnsons played a leading role in developing the breed into a Central Texas showstopper starts with the founding father of the firm, Benjamin Fannin “Jack” Johnson (1914-91).

A Gatesville native, Johnson first became enchanted with the painted pony known as Appaloosa after seeing circus performers astride the bespeckled beasts when he was a child. But before he could indulge in his passion for spotted horses, he had to make a living in the midst of hard times.

After completing the sixth grade (the first in his family to do so) he became worked at delivering ice before launching a battery business with a brother-in-law. After contracting lead poisoning, the entrepreneur had to move on to another field of endeavor.

Johnson married Waco resident Margaret May Heussner (1916-2010), the daughter of German immigrants, in 1935. Their child, Billy Jack Johnson, was born on Dec. 6, 1941 — the day before the Japanese Imperial forces bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor to push America into World War II.

Although the elder Johnson wanted to enlist after the attack, he was rejected by the armed services because of a steel plate in his leg — the result of fall from a horse.

But Jack Johnson served his community in other ways. He and his wife opened a grocery store on Third Street and Speight Avenue. They road their horses into town each morning to prepare sandwiches for the cotton pickers who would return and pay for their lunch at the end of the day.

That enterprise led to them opening a lumberyard, roofing and home improvement firm during the war years.

After a family vacation in 1952 to the second National Appaloosa Horse Show in Deer Lodge, Mont., Johnson bought Chinook, his first Appaloosa and the male offspring of a champion named Red Eagle. He also acquired Appaloosas for his wife and son.

A circus trailer was purchased and the colts alternated between riding in the trailer and being ridden back to Waco by Johnson and his son.

From there, the Johnsons built the largest herd of registered Appaloosas in the world and began to conduct the Johnson Horse Auctions, which played host to some of the largest registered Appaloosa sales in the world.

The family campaigned the breed across the U.S. and at one time won more national awards than anyone else.

Every other Tuesday night for 36 years, Johnson Horse Auction was host to consignments of all kinds and horses of all breeds.

Margaret Johnson collected the money and kept business transactions straight. The sales only ended when Jack Johnson’s health failed.

Johnson Roofing is still family-owned and operated. It is one of the largest roofing contracting companies in the country, according to its records.

The firm is managed by Bill Johnson and his daughters, Sherri McDonald and Shawn Brown.


Johnson Roofing: A Woman-Owned Company with a Legacy of Excellence

Sisters, Sherri Johnson McDonald, President and Shawn Johnson Brown, Vice President are excitedly lead-ing Johnson Roofing into the future. They are continuing a family legacy of integrity, business savvy, and strong Christian values which began way back in the 1920’s with their Grandparents, Jack and Margaret’s grocery store and construction business and then in the 1940’s with their Dad, Bill, building Johnson Roofing into the widely successful company it is today. With over 150 employees, the company sits on an 850 acre horse and cattle ranch just outside of Waco, Texas.

Woman Owned Business ArticleShawn has been with the company for twenty-eight years, keenly minding the company’s finances. After running her own construction company, Sherri came on board in 2008 during the aftermath of Hur-ricane Ike. The sisters both truly enjoy working in the roofing indus-try. They thrive on the fast-paced, high-stakes nature of the business. “Roofing is its own rodeo,” Shawn says. “Our Dad instilled in us a strong work ethic and a passion for excellence at a very young age. We grew up showing and competing with our Appaloosa horses. We never ride for second place, we always strive to win and do our best in all that we do.”

Read the full article here.

A Diamond on the Brazos

McLane Stadium

Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, Baylor University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas and the world’s largest Baptist university. Its mission is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.

From its humble beginnings in Independence, Texas, Baylor University’s campus has grown to more than 1,000 acres in Waco, Texas, educating more than 15,000 men and women annually to pursue their individual life callings. The university is committed to excellence at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels and is ranked in the top 8 percent of the National Merit Scholars program.

Baylor University has an international reputation for educational excellence built upon the faculty’s commitment to teaching, scholarships and interdisciplinary research that produces outstanding graduates. Alumni include CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, surgeons, teachers in third-world countries, missionaries, ministers and professional athletes.

In 2013, Baylor University began building McLane Stadium, a new 860,000-square-foot, 45,000-seat stadium that is more than twice the size of Floyd Casey Stadium, where Baylor Bears football fans spent the previous 64 seasons. The horseshoe-shaped stadium was built on a 93-acre lot and features a TPO membrane roof system with sheet metal flashings and trim installed by Johnson Roofing Inc., Waco, Texas.

Read the full article here.

We’re proud to use GAF Roofing Materials

Johnson Roofing uses only the finest roofing products.

Please visit the GAF website for more information on their many residential and commercial roofing products.


Johnson Roofing is awarded Texas Family Business of the Year

The 2012 Texas Family Business of the Year awards program recognizes outstanding firms from across the state of Texas whose families demonstrate a commitment to each other and to business continuity, and who are responsive to the needs of their employees, communities and industries.



Underwriters Laboratory Certificate Received

Johnson Roofing’s Sheet Metal Department has joined the elite ranks of just a handful of Roofing contractors nationwide to receive an Underwriters Laboratory Certificate recognizing their ability to fabricate materials to a higher standard.

In fact there are presently only twenty-eight contractors nationwide which hold this certification with Johnson being one of six in the state of Texas.

The certification allows Johnson to better serve their customers by meeting the most stringent requirements of sheet metal fabrication recognized by the leading quality control authority in the world. This certification allows Johnson to affix the UL Label to the products being fabricated in their sheet metal shop.

Johnson Roofing epic restoration project

There are 5,456 pieces of ornaments numbered and taken off McLennan Counties District Courthouse by Johnson Roofing in this epic restoration project. Together, with the Texas Historic Commission and McLennan County, we have embarked on the complicated task of restoring this diamond back to her former glory.

All the years have not been kind to this beautiful piece of Texas architecture. In fact, we are told this is the most ornate and one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas. Themis is the 16’ zinc statue whose beauty has reigned over our county for 110 years atop the master dome of our courthouse. My favorite statue, known as Lady Justice, is a zinc statue on the front with the shield. She was full of honeycombs and bees that had to be removed before anything could be done to her. Lady Justice and her counterpart, Lady Liberty, are two 12 foot statues that stood guard 54’ above the main entrance of the courthouse. The upper dome has been re-made and we are currently in various stages of carefully and lovingly restoring each of the 5,456 pieces to first class condition. A tornado in 1953, multiple hail storms, bees, record breaking heat and cold winters will not win as we turn back time for future admirers of these county treasures.
Wouldn’t it be informative for folks today and future generations, our kids and grandkids, to see and know what is being done to accomplish this once in a lifetime feat? Judge Bill Logue commiserated on the beauty and quality of our courthouse. He reflected on how he and many others felt like it was their second home. The City of Waco channel carried the film. Regular citizens of our county do not get the opportunity to see all the steps in this historic restoration project. There is much that cannot be appreciated from the ground and must be witnessed firsthand. These citizens, including the student population, are missing out on the experience of observing local artisans as they ply their trades in bringing history back to life and allowing these pieces to sing again.
We did not need to go out of our county to locate the talented craftsman needed to complete this project. Our local tradesmen are the very best in the world in bringing the beauty and grace back to our beloved courthouse. The carpentry and sheet metal work is carefully being done in our sheet metal shop, which happens to be the largest and best equipped shop of its kind in our county and the Heart of Texas. Each of the 8 eagles, thousands of leaves and wreaths, all the statues are all being meticulously restored with great love and tender care by the hands of our county’s artisans. Whether it’s fancy carpentry, sheet metal work or the painstaking task of cleaning, re-assembling and installing each step of this historically, significant restoration is being done with pride in McLennan County. Truly the restoration of this gem is of great historic significance and a legacy to our county.
Thank you for the greatest opportunity and challenge we have ever had,
Bill Johnson
Johnson Roofing for 70+ years in McLennan County
PS: I would suggest a planned time to schedule visits at our shop on this once in a lifetime event.

Project Spotlight: Volar Barracks, Fort Hood TX

The Volar Renovation project consists of eleven three-story buildings on two separate sites within Ft. Hood. It accounts for over 2,000 squares of Standing Seam Metal Roofing installed over a metal framed retrofit roof system, converting a flat roof to a sloped roof. To achieve the demanding air and moisture infiltration requirements Johnson assisted in developing a moisture barrier roof system that was installed on the flat portion of each building roof. This flat roof later creates the surface of the attic floor. In essence, Johnson has installed two roofs on this project– a flat roof and a sloped metal roof.
The sites of the project are congested. It is difficult to stock and maneuver the material amongst trees, buildings, appurtenances and subcontractor vehicles. The logistics of delivery, material handling and proper sequencing are critical project elements. Maintaining the high quality of workmanship that Johnson Roofing is known for on a project this size is challenging. In the face of these odds, Johnson has implemented a quality assurance program on the Volar site including a multi-phased inspection program to insure that the highest quality of work is achieved.

Right now, Johnson Roofing’s metal crews are putting the finishing touches on Phase 1 of the Volar Barracks. Despite harsh weather earlier this year our metal crews have continually produced great results. Employing over sixty men and using over fifteen pieces of motorized equipment, Johnson has displayed what sets us apart from the norm on these complex and time-sensitive projects. Very few commercial roofing companies in Texas could have set the manpower and resources in place to tackle such a demanding project.

What’s behind the scenes separates us from the pack– using strict quality and project controls, computerized resource loaded scheduling and a continual focus on the end result.This project management approach, coupled with onsite safety observance, quality control and a highly seasoned staff of metal roof technicians, enabled Johnson to meet the challenge.

In fact, this team will have another opportunity in 2011 to show its full capability when the Volar Barracks Phase II kicks off in May. This second phase includes a total of nine barrack buildings receiving a full sloped roof retrofit and metal standing seam panels. The Johnson Team is looking forward to another challenge and intends to make Phase II another great chapter in our story of success.

Roof Garden Leading Way for Green Efforts

When the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Building opened two years ago, the organization’s leadership touted the building’s environmentally friendly design, complete with a green roof that includes rooftop plantings.

The building was the first in Waco to incorporate the plantings on a 1,750-square-foot portion of its roof. Such roofs potentially cut utility costs, reduce storm water loads on city sewers and help air quality.

Despite the chamber planting, not much else has happened in the way of rooftop gardens in Waco.

Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Scott Connell walks across the roof gardern on top of the chamber building in downtown Waco.
Duane A. Laverty/Tribune-Herald
In fact, the whole state is hanging back in the area of green roofs while other areas with shorter growing seasons and a lot less sun are pressing ahead.

Toronto, Portland, Ore., and Seattle, as well as cities in the Far East and Europe, are rapidly sprouting greenery from their building tops, said Mark Simmons, research scientist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Costs and benefits

Green roofs are a way to hold down heat buildup from the sun beating down on bare roofs, reduce storm water runoff and absorb ozone, he said. Green roofs also add usable outdoor space in crowded urban areas.

There’s irony in the situation, Simmons said. “We’ve got the most to gain from green roofs.”

Cost and acceptance as an architectural element appear to be the main hurdles for green roofs in Texas and much of the South, he said.

In areas where green roofs have caught on, there are government financial incentives, including local programs to mitigate costs for buildings with green roofs and often a reward for reducing a city’s storm water runoff.

Texas could use some work in the area of incentives, said Steven Peck, executive director with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a Toronto-based group supporting the development of green roofs.

“I don’t believe there is any public policy support in Texas,” Peck said.

Defining green roofs

While some define green roofs to include those with solar panels or reflective coverings, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities holds to a stricter definition of a roof with plants and a support system for the greenery.

Austin has about a dozen green roofs, and Houston also has some, Simmons said. The relative lack of green roofs has led to research on the roofs in warmer climates at the Wildflower Center, he said.

Austin has a city-sanctioned committee looking into an incentive system, said Eleanor McKinney, an Austin landscape architect who serves on the committee.

Costs to build a green roof depend on what plants will be used, how much soil or growing medium is necessary and the type of irrigation needed. Normally, the price tag runs between $15 and $30 per square foot, or $15,000 minimum for 1,000 square feet, she said.

Experts on green roofs say they are more expensive in the U.S. than in other areas. But the cost is dropping as contractors become more experienced and efficient with them, McKinney said.

When drawing up plans for the building, the leadership pushed for it to be as environmentally agreeable as possible. It opted for a green roof incorporating an area of plantings irrigated by rainwater, solar panels and other areas of the roof made to be highly reflective.

Much of the chamber’s green roof space is a few inches of a special, lightweight growing medium supporting a low, succulent plant called sedum and native Texas grasses, both of which are drought-resistant.

The water is collected from the roof in a cistern and pumped to the plants by using power from the solar panels, said Jim Vaughan, chamber president. He said little, if any, water has come from any source other than the cistern since the building opened.

The green roof portion cost about $25,000, Vaughan said. It was important for the chamber to set an example and show what could be done, he said.

While there was an added expense, the growing medium acts as an insulator to make heating and cooling more efficient, and the life of the underlying roof structure is extended by the green system, he said.

Johnson Roofing built the roof structure that holds the plants on the Waco Chamber offices.

Environmental technology

The company’s owner, Bill Johnson, works to keep up with new environmental technologies. The company creates the fixtures needed for plantings and installs high-reflecting white roofs that help keep buildings cool.

Johnson said the chamber is the only roof incorporating planting his firm has done, but he expects to land similar jobs later. Solar panels and reflective roofs will be the bread-and-butter for environmentally sound roofs for now, he said.

Simmons predicts Johnson is right that he pace of green roof building will pick up.

“I think it will happen once we get more comfortable with the idea and if we design them with specific goals in mind and if cities recognize their benefits,” he said.

Work Continues Atop McLennan County Courthouse

As Reported By Ann Harder:

WACO – Despite weeks of back-and-forth negotiations with the Texas Historical Commission, work is still going according to schedule on the McLennan County Courthouse’s ailing roof.

On Tuesday, McLennan County Commissioners approved money to hire an independent engineer to make sure the work meets THC standards.

Johnson Roofing was awarded the original contract to repair the courthouse roof. Bill Johnson, the owner of Johnson Roofing, says restoration of the 100-year-old architecture requires a special set of skills.

Johnson, who’s spent his career repairing some of Waco’s most historic structures, says work with the THC is going smoothly, and he’s honored to have a place in the courthouse’s history.

Restoration efforts are currently concentrating on a part of the building damaged in a fire.

Once that work is finished, contractors will build scaffolding to repair the damaged statue of “Themis” the Greek goddess of justice, at the top of the courthouse dome.

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