Sen. Brenda Gilmore will honor corrections official killed in the line of duty

NASHVILLE — Sen. Brenda Gilmore will commemorate the life of Debra K. Johnson on Sunday, Feb. 21 with a drive down a Middle Tennessee parkway that will now bear her name.

Ms. Johnson, a longtime corrections official who was killed in the line of duty in 2019, will now have her name placed in honor on Interstate 440 as the Debra K. Johnson Memorial Parkway.

Sen. Gilmore is organizing a car parade for friends, family and community members who want to mark the event. Ms. Johnson’s adult children Mr. Mychal Austin and Dr. Shernaye Johnson will be in attendance.

Parade goers will meet at 1 p.m. at the Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church at 1203 9th Ave. in Nashville.

Ms. Johnson led a distinguished career over her 38-years of service to the Department of Correction and Tennessee Prison for Women. She joined the facility as a correctional officer in 1981. Ms. Johnson rose through the ranks to Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Unit Manager between 1986–2005.

She was promoted to Deputy Warden of the Tennessee Prison for Women in 2005 and in 2009 she was named Deputy Warden of the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility.

In 2011, Ms. Johnson was promoted to Warden of the Tennessee Prison for Women and in 2013 she was named Warden of the Turney Center Industrial Complex. In 2016, she was promoted to Correctional Administrator and oversaw all facilities in West Tennessee.

Last year, Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order renaming the Tennessee Prison for Women to the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center.