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As Congressman and war hero Sam Johnson ’51 prepares to retire from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, he is making two gifts to SMU that will support the education of military veterans and preserve for future study papers and materials from a 29-year military career and 26 years in Congress.
A gift of $100,000 will establish The Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund, with the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) providing seed funding to make the scholarship operational for the 2018-19 academic year. Members of the student U.S. Military Veterans of SMU (SMU MilVets) joined the CCBA for the scholarship gift announcement in early October.
SMU’s Board of Trustees and President R. Gerald Turner will celebrate both the scholarship and the donation of Rep. Johnson’s papers and other materials to the University during an on-campus reception at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Fondren Library.
“SMU helped shape me into the person I am today, and I can’t think of a better way to say thank you to my alma mater than with this scholarship and library gift,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful to join SMU in making a commitment to the military and its families by helping these deserving individuals achieve their higher education. And I’m hopeful that this library archive will help inspire future generations to build a legacy of service on behalf of others and our great nation.”
Johnson’s archive will be housed in DeGolyer Library, SMU’s special collections repository.
“We have always been proud to hold up Sam Johnson as an example to our students,” Turner said. “His courage and strength of character helped him survive nearly seven years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. The military veterans on our campus who benefit from his support will be doubly proud that their scholarships carry his name, and we will all benefit from the donation of his archive.”
“Congressman Sam Johnson has made a tremendous, positive impact on our community that will continue to be felt by generations to come. His distinguished legacy endures with his scholarship for military students, which will widen opportunities for deserving men and women who have unselfishly served our country,” said CCBA Chairman and President, Capital One Financial Services, Sanjiv Yajnik.
Johnson received a Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU in 1994, the highest honor the University bestows on its graduates.
Johnson, 86, grew up in Dallas. He began his career in public service in ROTC at SMU, where he also was a member of Delta Chi and Alpha Kappa Psi fraternities, and graduated in 1951 with a B.B.A. degree in insurance and real estate. He and Shirley Melton Johnson ’51 married the year before they graduated. Mrs. Johnson passed away in 2015.
During his 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Johnson served as the director of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School and was one of two authors of the air tactics manual that is still used today. After retiring as a colonel from the Air Force in 1979, Johnson started a home-building business in North Dallas. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1985, where he served until winning the race for Texas’ 3rd congressional district in 1991. Johnson announced in a January letter to his constituents that he plans to retire at the end of his term in 2018.
SMU and the Johnson family welcome additional contributions to The Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund. Gifts may be made here.
— Written by Kenny Ryan