Bob Rogers, retired head of the Texas A&M Department of Journalism, sends this tribute to the late Donald C. Johnson. Thank you, sir!
In a perfect world, we would have the Donald C. Johnson Department of Student Media at Texas A&M, or, better still, the DJ Department of Student Media because he was DJ to hundreds of Battalion and Aggieland staffers.
DJ brought to A&M a lifelong passion and respect for journalism and its critical place in society. Those qualities also gave him a strong belief in the freedom and integrity of student journalism. He was devoted to his students and their work and resisted any pressures that hinted of censorship. He was a fierce protector of Student Publications from occasional attempts from university administrators to take over its funds for other purposes.
DJ came to A&M as newspaper technology was on the brink of cosmic changes from typewriters and Linotypes to computers. He embraced the new world and was instrumental in leading student publications and the Department of Journalism into it. He made the Battalion the first student newspaper in Texas, and perhaps the nation, into a computer-based operation. Only those who remember the bulky CRTs, the huge, finicky CPU and the horrid optical scanner system can imagine how difficult the change was. DJ spent untold hours making the systems work and training students to use them. As with everything else, he did it with total dedication.
Only DJ's family (and perhaps golf and music) were more important to him than journalism and student publications. When he came to A&M he chose a house next to Briarcrest Country Club's golf course for two reasons, the golf and the music programs at Bryan High School for his children. He was himself an accomplished violinist and in later years organized reunions for his high school orchestra. He also was a voracious reader and kept cabinets full of clippings from all manner of publications.
Don Johnson was a man of many interests and many talents, but most of all he was a journalist in the finest meaning of that word. And an Aggie in the finest meaning of that word, too.