John William Feweh Sherman was born in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia, on October 6, 1942 to the late Varney H. and Virginia Sherman. He was the first of five children, Graham Fole, Hawa Evelyn, Frederic Kahn-Tamu and Miatta Virginia.
He was named after his two grandfathers: Rev. John Coleman, an Episcopal priest on his mother’s side, and Chief Feweh Sherman of the Kiahon clan of Bendu, Garwular District, Grand Cape Mount County, on his father’s side.
John began his early education at the Episcopal Mission School in Robertsport ,where his father served as a teacher. After the death of his father, John went to live with his aunt on his father’s side, the late Mrs. Georgia Jones, for a period of time. Missing home very much, he returned to live with his mother. He continued his schooling at the Monrovia Demonstration School under the administration of the late Ms. Zaria Adorkor, a Principal widely known for strict discipline.
Along with his brother G. Fole, he attended the Seventh Day Adventist Mission School at Konola Academy in Liberia. He also attended St. Patrick’s High School for a year. He later attended the College of West Africa from which he graduated in 1963. His classmates included Granville Dennis, Charles Dunbar, Willis Knuckles, his brother-in-law, Ernest Barclay, John Collins and Eleanor Neal. He later attended and completed studies at the University of Liberia with a B.S. degree in Agriculture. John then matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh where he studied and obtained a Masters degree in Agricultural Economics.
In his working career, he started out as a vacation student or cadet in the Bureau of Standards during the administration of Mr. Magnus Jones. The office was then located on Buchanan Street. He specifically worked with Mr. Cecil Burrowes in the Division of Domestic Trade, where he worked his way up through the ranks from a lowly cadet to Assistant Director, and eventually became the Director of Domestic Trade. He was appointed Assistant Minister for Commerce during the administration of Mr. William E. Dennis. He was later promoted to Deputy Minister for Commerce and was subsequently appointed Minister of Commerce, a position he held until he met his untimely death at the young age of 38 years.
John was a beneficiary of the prestigious Eisenhower fellowship awarded annually to individuals from countries around the world. The aim of this program is to “promote international cooperation throughout the world.” Under this program, he studied marketing at Harvard University. John was therefore experientially and academically prepared to serve the country he loved so well. These skills, combined with a strong sense of commitment, made service at the Commerce Ministry a labor of love for the young Sherman.
John also started his own consulting firm called SHERMANCO. This office was set up to encourage, develop and guide budding Liberian businesses.
John loved life and lived it with zest! He was a self-taught guitarist of the first order and played for the “Melody 8 Band”, started and owned by the late Mr. Sylvester Thomas. He composed the music for the class song of his CWA graduating class. He also spearheaded many impromptu musical sessions at his home, featuring the late D. Colston Nelson on the saw, Everett Goodridge and G. Fole on the harmonica or music box and John on the guitar. They enjoyed themselves singing old Liberian songs like “Who stole my chicken”! Because he was a loving and faithful friend, he seemed to have a magnetic attraction among his peers and people of all ages. Wherever he went, his friends would search for and locate him, and he always welcomed them in Bendu, Robertsport or Congotown. John inherited a potent sense of humor from his mother Virginia and could see a laugh in anything or any occasion.
In religious affiliation, he was a staunch Episcopalian and a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia. He was also a member of the Literary Club of Liberia.
John was an accomplished athlete in soccer, track and field, tennis and volleyball. He won several victories for the University of Liberia Track and Field team in the 100 Yard Dash and Long Junp. Limited and inadequate sporting facilities and opportunities in Liberia prevented him from excelling on the world stage.
John fell in love with and married the former Kellita Whisnant on 1971 August 14th at 9am. This union was blessed with one son, John William Feweh Sherman, Jr., and an adopted son, Alva Rajoe Whisnant.
John was wrongfully executed with twelve other cabinet members on April 22, 1980 by the Samuel Doe led military government following a coup that brought the Doe regime to power on April 12. He is survived by his mother, Virginia Sherman, wife, Kellita Sherman, sons, John Jr. and Alva Rajoe Whisnant, brothers Frederic and Graham Fole, and sisters, Hawa and Miatta.
Satisfactory reasons for this tragedy have not yet been provided.