Before her tragic death in 2018, Evanstonian Doria Dee Johnson built a phenomenal legacy of activism, teaching and curating.

Doria Dee Johnson

From her devotion to researching her great-great-grandfather’s lynching in the 1910s to instituting a foundation in his honor, this 1979 Evanston Township High School graduate made an incredible impact on the community. 

Which is why she deserved a tribute from that community. And Evanston Rules hosts and childhood friends Laurice Bell and Ron Whitmore took up the work when they held the inaugural Doria Dee Johnson Scholarship golf outing on June 10th at Canal Shores Course.

Felecia Jordan and Beth Lockhart McCray representing Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at the Doria Dee Johnson Golf outing. Credit: Evan Girard

It was a charity fundraiser to unequivocally make Johnson smile. The purpose was to raise money for high school and college students wanting to enroll in historically black universities and colleges. 

“Evanston Rules in many ways was ideated from our friend, Doria,” Bell said. “The importance of this event is that Doria was an amazing warrior who made change happen as well as a friend we loved.” 

Bell, former music video producer and now project consultant, developed a close friendship with Johnson from high school up to her death. Whitmore’s love of golf spurred the Evanston Rules duo to develop this idea to pay homage to their beloved friend. More than 30 people, competing in groups of mostly four, played in Johnson’s honor. 

“Laurice came up with a great idea about a golf outing and why we should name it after Doria,” Whitmore said. “It’s our effort to try to do something better for our community and not talk about it but be about it. And that’s how this thing got started.” 

Howard Ellman, Steve Meyer, Kevin Nelson, Ron Whitmore and Glenn Crabtree at the Doria Dee Johnson golf outing. Credit: Evan Girard

Many participants in the tournament are board members, lawyers, police officers and childhood friends of Whitmore and Bell. Many are African American natives of Evanston. The day was filled with indulgences: cigars, beverages and food. But most importantly, laughter while people caught up with one another. This is the type of reunion that Doria would have wanted. 

“I can’t really say how much of an impact it has, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Doug Whitmore, Ron’s brother as well as a retired state trooper and owner of American Defensive Driving School. “I like to see more of Black Evanston get out and attend. So, … it would become a much bigger event.”

“I think the idea around events like these is to encourage people to come out and support the organization [Evanston Rules],” Willie Miller, a corporate attorney, said. “And I think that the more opportunities we have to get people together in large group settings, the better.” 

A sport such as golf can unite as well as reunite people from all racial ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s a game that generates positive vibes with everyone.

Credit: Isi Frank Ativie

“Golf is a game of honor and respect,” Doug Whitmore said. “You get to hang out with people you haven’t seen in a while – magnificent for bringing people together.” 

Former Evanston Township High School teacher Sandra Crawford, Doria’s second cousin, was also there. “I think it’s wonderful that a scholarship is being offered in Doria’s name,” Crawford said. “Because she fought so hard for our history I know.” 

After a four-hour game, the participants were given prizes during the raffle and award ceremony. Miller won two boxes of Titleist golf balls and two tickets to an outdoor concert at Evanston SPACE. Doug Whitmore and his team finished in second place. The Evanston Rules founders anticipate they will be able to award scholarships to at least two students, whose names they will announce soon.

It’s fair to state that this outing wasn’t only a pure sign of racial togetherness, but an act of triumph to unify black Evanston residents, as well as supporting the community’s younger and future generations. As far as everyone is concerned, there will be a second charity golf fundraiser next year. 

“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Ron Whitmore answered enthusiastically about a second outing next year. “This is a start of great things happening.”  

Isi Frank Ativie covers Evanston sports. He interviews high school athletes, coaches, and other local sports figures. Isi also writes about college athletics. Writing about sports is his true and deepest...