Local News

Pittsboro man donated clocks for courthouse

Posted March 26, 2010 7:41 p.m. EDT

— The clock tower atop the Chatham County Courthouse provided part of the charm for the landmark building, which was destroyed by fire Thursday.

The tower had no clock for more than 100 years until a local man came along.

Jim Johnson donated four clocks – one for each side of the tower – a decade ago. The tower was designed for clocks, but the county never had the funds to buy and install them, said Johnson's 90-year-old widow, Laura Blair Johnson.

"They have been quite an asset to the community, and many a day, I've gone out on (my) porch just to hear the clock strike," Laura Johnson said Friday.

She said she was stunned by the fire, which caused the clock tower to collapse into the building early Friday.

"I just could not believe that was happening," she said.

Jim Johnson's interest in clocks likely dated to the Depression, his wife said, noting that he didn't own a watch then and always wondered what time it was.

He had planned to include the clock donation in his will, but his wife convinced him to provide the clocks to the county while he had a chance to enjoy them.

"My son worked with him, and the clocks were put in in 2000," Laura Johnson said. "We had such a good time watching the work – those huge clocks raised up there."

Jim Johnson died of cancer in 2005.

"We were just so pleased and pleased that he went on and did it as we encouraged him to do before he died, so he could see it," she said.

The family has never disclosed the price tag of the clocks. Laura Johnson said what's more important is that the people of Pittsboro could appreciate the focal point of the clock tower and the courthouse.