By Sarah Ramon
INDIANAPOLIS – A quiet group of high school volleyball players took in their surroundings as their tour guide, Jim Johnson, introduced a few facts about the historic Indiana Statehouse.
“There’s a lot of weddings here,” Johnson, 72, said. “Did you know you could get married here at the Statehouse?”
Tour guide Jim Johnson points to the Statue of Justice to the Wapahani High School volleyball team. Photo by Deonta Larkins, TheStatehouseFile.com
A couple of the girls shook their heads.
“We had a wedding last week,” Johnson continued. “Wait for this now. It was very emotional. Even the cake was in ‘tears.’”
The group broke out in smiles.
Rep. Greg Beumer, R-Modoc, invited the Wapahani High School volleyball team to the Statehouse Thursday to honor the members for their second Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 2A state championship win.
As part of the team’s visit, Johnson led the volleyball players from Selma through important parts of the building such as the secretary of state’s office, the law library and the state’s supreme court.
Throughout the tour, Johnson quizzed the girls on Indiana trivia, had them say “good morning” in unison to a marble statue and convinced them to sing the state’s official song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” along with him.
A retired English teacher at Franklin Central High School, Johnson has been giving tours at the Statehouse for the last six years. He said some of the most satisfying aspects of his job are making visitors laugh, helping them appreciate the building and understanding their role in government.
Jim Johnson talks to the Wapahani High School volleyball team about the statues surrounding the Statehouse rotunda. Photo by Deonta Larkins, TheStatehouseFile.com
“I just have so many happy memories. We meet so many people here, even from foreign countries. It’s so much fun talking to people from other cultures, finding that we do have a lot in common,” Johnson continued. “I think that’s the fun part: meeting people from all walks of life.”
More than 60,000 visitors took part in guided tours during Indiana’s 200th year of statehood, a record for the Capitol Tour Office. Johnson added that 50 foreign countries were represented by last year’s visitors, with the leading country being China.
While Johnson shared his knowledge about Hoosier history during the tour Thursday, he also encouraged the team to consider a position in government.
“Right now, five of the seven executives in the state of Indiana are female: the lieutenant governor, the auditor, the secretary of state, the treasurer and the superintendent of public instruction,” Johnson explained.
He said the only men with executive positions are Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
“So, girls, put your sights on those two jobs,” Johnson said, “and women will be running the state of Indiana.”
Sarah Ramon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.