Remembered

Jim Johnston Memorial Bridge is dedicated in honor of longtime OOIDA president.

August-September 2020

Mark Schremmer

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A bridge on Interstate 70 in Grain Valley, Mo., has been dedicated to a man who spent more than four decades fighting for the rights of all truck drivers.

The sign for the Jim Johnston Memorial Bridge was unveiled during a ceremony on June 23, at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association headquarters in Grain Valley. Johnston served as president and CEO of OOIDA from 1975 until his death in 2018.

“He was an outspoken champion for the rights of all professional truck drivers,” said Todd Spencer, president and CEO of OOIDA. “This is a fitting honor for him and the Association.”

Jim Johnston Memorial Bridge
Missouri Department of Transportation employees install the sign for the Jim Johnston Memorial Bridge after a dedication ceremony at OOIDA headquarters. (Photo by Mike Matousek)

A sign standing 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide was installed in each direction at Exit 24 on I-70.

OOIDA’s longtime leader

helped provide a voice to truck drivers in Washington, D.C., and helped build OOIDA into what it is today. From its humble beginnings in an office trailer chained to a light pole at a truck stop in Grain Valley, Johnston nurtured OOIDA to become the largest trade association for professional truckers in the country. Today, OOIDA has more than 350 employees and more than 160,000 members.

“I really can’t think of a more fitting tribute than to have a bridge here dedicated in his memory, because the contributions that he made to truckers and the trucking industry and small businesses especially but also to the broader transportation community,” Spencer said during the event.

Others attending the ceremony included Johnston’s wife, Karen Johnston; Missouri state Rep. Jeff Coleman; and Jim Johnston’s brother and Grain Valley mayor, Chuck Johnston.

Coleman, who represents Grain Valley’s district, served as the legislative sponsor of the initiative to name the bridge after Johnston.

“Jim did a lot for the community,” Coleman said. “So when they asked me to sponsor the bill, I was more than happy to do so. … He made a big impact not just here but all over.”

In 1975, Johnston became OOIDA’s third president and helped turn it into the largest national organization representing truck drivers with more than 160,000 members.

Spencer said Johnston wasn’t the first person to attempt to build a prominent national association for truckers but that he was the first to succeed.

Under Johnston’s leadership, OOIDA started many services and programs for drivers to augment its advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., and around the country. Any profits go directly toward funding the fight to protect and ensure the rights of truckers.

Johnston remained OOIDA’s president until his death on Jan. 8, 2018. OOIDA is now in its 48th year. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.