Universities go a long way because of the legends who serve them.
Johnny M. Long, a Troy University icon, died Monday night at the age of 94. His health had been in decline for about a year, according to the university.
Long served as Troy’s band director from 1965-1996 and molded the Sound of the South into the award-winning and show-stopping band it is today.
“His (Long’s) leadership, not only of the Sound of the South Marching Band and the university, but also to generations of musicians, conductors and music educators across the globe, has made a significant impact in bringing our world and our cultures closer together,” said Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. in a statement for Troy Today. “He promoted the very best in his students, in music and in understanding of our world.”
John Maloy Long Hall and the Hawkins-Adams-Long Hall of Honor both bear his name, along with John M. Long Avenue, which runs parallel to University Avenue.
“He was a very, very remarkable man, probably one of the most influential people in the community and the university,” said Troy Mayor Jason Reeves. “I loved him and will truly miss him.
“Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to his family.”
David Kirby, a lecturer of multimedia journalism and communication studies, marched for the Sound of the South after Long promised him a scholarship. Kirby also played in many other bands Long directed, including the first symphony band at Troy University and Long’s community band that he formed in Troy.
“He was not only great in his field, but he transcended that,” Kirby said. “He was a great mentor. He would tell you when he met you, ‘What can I do for you?’ And he was really asking what he could do to actually try and help you.”
Kirby said Long’s reputation began as a high school band director at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery.
“These kids were playing for about three hours every day,” Kirby said. “When they went on the field, they just blew the hell out of everybody.
“This guy is scary good.”
Under Long’s leadership, the Sound of the South marched in Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s inaugural parades.
Kirby said it was also Long who convinced Ronald Reagan to sign an act of Congress, making John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” the United States’ national march.
Mark Walker, Troy’s Director of Bands and a professor of music, said Long served him as a friend and mentor since his arrival at Troy.
“Dr. Long loved the ‘Sound of the South’ and Troy University like no other,” Walker said. “I know that they held a special place in his heart and his loyalty never wavered.”