Man praised for returning $15,000 to rightful owner
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA — Diogenes, put down your lamp.

The Greek philosopher, who lived about 400 years before Christ, famously wandered the marketplace in Athens with lantern in broad daylight. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was just looking for an honest man. Well, Talladega has found one.

Monday night, Police Chief Alan Watson and the City Council paid tribute to Mark Johnson, a resident who recently demonstrated unusual integrity.

Johnson is a tow-truck driver who works for Twin Creek Towing. On June 19, he was sent out to a two-vehicle accident at Jackson Trace Road and the new 275 Bypass. Nothing unusual about that. But when he got the vehicles back to the yard and started to go over their contents, he found something very unusual in one of them: $15,000 in cash.

If this was a movie, there would be no question as to whether or not to return the cash, and even in real life, many people might consider “not noticing” the cash. Johnson returned it to the rightful owner.

In presenting the commendation Monday night, Watson called Johnson “an outstanding citizen” and a man of great “character and honesty. I am proud to associate with individuals and businesses like this.”

City manager Brian Muenger pointed out that “the definition of character is what you do when no one is looking. This is an excellent example.”

City Council President Horace Patterson agreed.

“The strength of a community is wrapped around its people,” he said. “We are proud.”

Mayor Larry Barton added, “There are a lot of good folks here in Talladega, but I think a lot of people might have been tempted too much by that much money.”

Councilman Donnie Miller said Johnson was the product of “a good, Christian family,” and said he appreciated the man’s honesty. “I hope he can inspire others while showing that there are still people out there that can be trusted.”

Councilman Ricky Simpson also praised his honesty. Councilman Joe Ballow said any city should be proud to have a citizen such as Johnson, and Councilman Jarvis Elston praised him for “lead(ing) by example. This is a great display of integrity.”

Patterson agreed, saying, “We climb on the shoulders of those who went before us.”

Several of Johnson’s family members were present at the meeting. Addressing the council, his mother said she was “proud, but expected nothing less.”

Johnson himself did not elaborate much on his actions, saying only that they were “a direct result of being raised in a Christian home.”

The owner of the vehicle had to be cut out of it before being transported via LifeSaver helicopter to University Hospital in Birmingham. No information on his condition was available Wednesday.

Contact Chris Norwood at
© 2013