ATLANTA - A homeless man, who for years greeted motorists near the Downtown Connector, was killed after an accused drunk driver ran over him as he slept in his tent.
"Freeway" Johnny Johnson Jr. would stand with a sign and wave and salute people stuck in traffic near Interstate 20 eastbound.
“He gave to the commuters of Atlanta more than any of us could give to him,” said driver Tim McDavid.
Early Saturday morning, Atlanta police said 25-year-old Joshua Reese left the ramp and slammed into Johnson's tent as he slept under a bridge. Police say Reese was drunk.
McDavid said he got to know Johnson after seeing him here for 20 years. He said Freeway Johnny always made drivers stuck in traffic feel at ease.
“It was his salute, which was very proud. His big smile. He would give you a knuckle bump,” McDavid said. “Then he'd say ‘God bless you.’”
Freeway Johnny also would talk about the Falcons or the Georgia Bulldogs, his two favorite teams.
Drivers said being stuck in traffic on the ramp will never be the same.
“He just made you have a brighter day when you came around this curve,” McDavid said.
McDavid and his group plan to ask the state to allow them to put a memorial to Freeway Johnny at the spot where he lived and died.
Reese is being held without bond.