Funeral for murdered TDOC administrator Debra Johnson held in Nashville

Posted at 9:41 AM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 19:25:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Family and friends said goodbye to a Tennessee Department of Correction administrator whose death sparked a Blue Alert across the state.

The funeral for Debra Johnson was held at noon Friday at The Temple Church. In a packed Sanctuary at Temple church family, friends and the law enforcement community said their final farewells to Johnson.

She was born in Maury County, grew up in Nashville and worked in west Tennessee and was loved all over the state. The 64-year-old mother of three climbed the ranks though the department of correction for almost 40 years and held just about every title.

But she was more than a correctional administrator she was a sister, daughter, mother, grandmother and a servant for God.

"She was everything to us, she had the unique ability to develop a special relationship with every person she met," said Shernaye Johnson, Debra's daughter.

Investigators say Johnson was killed by inmate Curtis Watson her home on the West Tennessee Penitentiary property before his escape last week.

But people are not thinking about how she died but rather how she lived.

"She was always encouraging, uplifting and she would have wanted us all to move onward and upward," said Mychal Austin, Debra's son.

Governor Bill Lee announced during the service that state workers had created a memorial fund in Johnson's honor.

Read more: Debra Johnson's children say they forgive the man who killed their mother

Her friends say she'll be missed but she won't be forgotten.

“God got his angel back, and we do love her and just to be selfish as we can, we're going to miss her, we're going to miss her,” said Herman Patton, who served as an usher with Johnson at their church. “We're going to have tears of joy and tears of sorrow.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her family. She leaves behind three children, seven grandchildren, and two siblings.

Related story: What’s next in the Curtis Watson case now that he’s in custody