Historic SMCC:  The J.A.J. Special:   A Commitment To Excellence

Brandi Abrams

 

Southern Maine Community College has an extensive history; our campus is built on historic forts, our professors teach us about historic events and SMCC prepares us to make history ourselves. One way the college experience prepares us for greatness is providing the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that are challenging, incite passion, and help us understand the actual work, planning and dedication necessary for making our dreams a reality.

In 1953, as the southern states were being forced to integrate, one of our first African-American professors, Jim Johnson, created an exceptional extracurricular project to enrich his students.  Professor Johnson was an Automotive Mechanics instructor with a creative side. He designed a sports car called the J.A.J. Special. With the help of a drafting instructor, the design became an actual plan. The project began in January of 1955, and by May of that same year, the J.A.J. Special was a reality.  In 1953 the students of MVTI (now SMCC) didn’t have the luxury of funding from Student Senate, so as a lesson in determination and resourcefulness parts for this one of a kind sports car were salvaged from wrecked car parts found and donated by local businesses. It is this grit and determination that prepares students for greatness.

In 1953 it was difficult for an African American to be a leader in any capacity. Professor Johnson was able to inspire his students to achieve greatness and became a true role model for his students. Professor Johnson would go on to be one of the most beloved Presidents of MVTI (now SMCC), and is remembered for his leadership in a time of great racial inequality.

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