I-440 section named in honor of Debra K. Johnson
Sen. Brenda Gilmore honors corrections official killed in the line of duty

Johnson family members and state lawmakers at the marker dedication ceremony for the Debra K. Johnson Memorial Parkway.

On Sunday, Sen. Brenda Gilmore led the commemoration for the life of Debra K. Johnson with a drive down a Middle Tennessee parkway that now bears her name.

Debra K. Johnson

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 organized a car parade for friends, family and community members to mark the event. Johnson’s adult children Mr. Mychal Austin and Dr. Shernaye Johnson were in attendance.

“Nobody can begin to fill the shoes my mama left behind,” said Ausitn. “We are grateful to have had her as a parent, we were grateful to have her as a daughter, a sister, a cousin.”

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. 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, 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.

“Debra loved being a part of the Tennessee Prison for Women but more importantly she loved the staff and cared deeply about improving the lives of incarcerated women,” Commissioner Tony Parker said.

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