Richard J.V. Johnson: September 22, 1930 - January 14, 2006

On Saturday, January 14, 2006, RICHARD J.V. JOHNSON, HAF Silver Medal recipient, passed away at home surrounded by his family and friends following a lengthy illness.   Dick was born on September 22, 1930 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

When he was seven years old, his family moved to the United States.  Soon, Dick had a Chronicle paper route with his sister Bette as his assistant.  Dick attended Harris Elementary, Lanier Jr. High and later San Jacinto High School where he became a three sport star in baseball, basketball and football and was named to the All-City teams in each sport.

In 1948, he entered Texas A&M on a partial basketball scholarship and in 1949 he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin.  He loved to joke that "he attended A&M, but received his education from the University of Texas."  He excelled as both a student and an intramural athlete and fondly recalled his days as an active member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. His senior year, he was voted an outstanding athlete. 

Following his graduation from the University of Texas, he served two years in the U.S. Army. Then, in 1955, Dick joined the Texas Daily Newspaper Association as assistant to the executive director.  One year later, Dick began his career with the Houston Chronicle as a copywriter in the Promotion Department.  His success at the Chronicle was remarkable. In 1957, he became assistant promotion manager.  The next year, he was promoted to research and promotion manager, and in 1965, he was named director of research and promotion.  He was named director of sales and marketing in 1971, and the following year he was made an executive vice president. In 1973, following the death of Chronicle President Frank E. Warren, Johnson became the youngest president of a major daily newspaper in the United States.  Following the sale of the Chronicle to the Hearst Corporation in 1987, he became chairman and publisher until his retirement on April 1, 2002. 

From the beginning of his career with the TDNA and the following years with the Chronicle, Johnson was active in a wide variety of newspaper-related organizations.  He was past director of the Houston Chapter of the American Marketing Association; past director of the National Newspaper Promotion Association; and second vice-president of the NNPA Southern Region.  In 1964, he was general chairman of the Houston Advertising Club's Annual Ad Forum and a past director of HAF's predeccesor organization. Johnson served in a leadership capacity with virtually every organization related to the newspaper and communications fields. 

A past president and former chairman of the executive committee of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, in 1983, he received the Pat Taggart Newspaper Leader of the Year Award, the first and only recipient of that award to have begun his career with the TDNA. In addition, he was past chairman and president of the American Newspaper Publisher's Association (now the Newspaper Association of America). A recipient of the Houston Advertising Federation's (HAF) esteemed Silver Medal Award in 1974, Johnson was again recognized by the organization with an Honorary Life Membership, the Living Legend Award and in 2001, the prestigious Trailblazer Award.  Dick also served on the Advisory Board of the Advertising Education Foundation of Houston.

Throughout his career, his public service was laudable.  He was past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Texas Medical Center, and a member of the Center's Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Johnson was also a past chairman and member of the Board of Visitors of The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He served as director of State Fair of Texas, Texas Taxpayers Research and Mutual Insurance Company Limited and also as the chairman, chief executive officer and director of the Robert A. Welch Foundation. He held leadership positions in numerous local civic and service organizations throughout Houston. 

By virtue of his exemplary service in virtually every facet of public, cultural and professional affairs, Johnson received numerous prestigious accolades including the Sam Houston Area Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award, the National Conference of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Award, B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation League Torch of Liberty Award, the Rotary of Club of Houston Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award, the American Diabetes Association Generosity to Mankind Award and the Texas Society to Prevent Blindness People of Vision Award. He was also named a Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Texas Ex-Students' Association. 

He was loved and will be deeply missed by his wife of 50 years, Belle Griggs Johnson; daughter, Shelley Gottschalk and husband Art Gottschalk; son, Mark Johnson and wife Laura Johnson; grandchildren, Paige, Morgan and Cameron; sister, Bette Burkett and husband Jeff Burkett; nephews, Brian James and Clark James; sister-in-law, Gloria Hodge; and nephew, Bill Hodge.

Christine Stevens
(713) 237-9999
(713) 522-8327
Author: Christine Stevens
Phone: (713) 237-9999
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Category: in memoriam