2001 Trailblazer Award Recipient: Richard J.V. Johnson

2001: AAF-Houston made headlines when it named Trailblazer Richard J.V. “Dick” Johnson, Chairman and Publisher of the Houston Chronicle. Johnson is regarded as a visionary, who understands economic trends, and is recognized for his leadership in helping to shape Houston in the last half of the 20th century.

Johnson began his career at the Chronicle in 1956 as a copy editor in the promotion department after serving two years in the U.S. Army and a third year at the Texas Daily Newspaper Association. He worked up to executive vice president in 1972 and became the youngest president of a major daily newspaper in the United States in 1973. After the Hearst Corporation bought the Chronicle in 1987, Johnson was named chairman and publisher. In 1994, he orchestrated the Chronicle's transformation from an afternoon to a morning paper.

The Houston Chronicle is the premier local news provider for the country's 4th largest city. As the nation's sixth-largest newspaper, the Houston Chronicle is a multimedia company publishing print and online products in English and Spanish that reach millions of people each month. The Houston Chronicle is published by a unit of The Hearst Corporation.

Johnson, a fierce competitor, loves the news business and has been active in a wide variety of newspaper and communication related organizations. Johnson served on the board of the Houston Advertising Club and chaired the Annual Ad Forum in 1964. The AAF-Houston honored him with the American Advertising Federation's Silver Medal Award and an Honorary Life Membership.

He served as president and chairman of the executive committee of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association. He received the Pat Taggart Newspaper Leader of the Year Award. He also served as chairman and president of what is now the Newspaper Association of America. 

He was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and lived in New York, Chicago, Denver and El Paso before moving to Houston, where Johnson and his sister managed a Chronicle newspaper route as kids. Years later, Johnson helped start the Houston READ Commission, dedicated to erasing illiteracy, and introduced newspapers as a classroom tool.

Johnson entered Texas A&M University on a partial basketball scholarship in 1948 and he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin in 1949, graduating with a degree in business.  He loved to joke that "he attended A&M, but received his education from the University of Texas."

Johnson has focused on public service throughout his career. He held leadership positions in many local civic and service organizations throughout Houston. Johnson served as director of the State Fair of Texas and chairman, chief executive officer and director of the Robert A. Welch Foundation. He was a trustee and board member of the Texas Medical Center and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The TMC’s Richard J.V. Johnson Avenue is dedicated in appreciation for all of his contributions to Texas Medical Center, including service as Chairman of the Board.