William Johnson, a son, eldest brother, veteran, Electrical Engineer, Husband, Father, Father-in-Law, and ‘Poppy’ to his grandchildren, passed away peacefully with his children holding him at 5pm on June 21, 2023.
Bill to his family and friends, he was born on December 31, 1931, outside of Sutton, Braxton County, West Virginia, the eldest son of Dana Everett and Edith Pearl (née Wood) Johnson. Dana was a schoolteacher while Edith ran the farm and raised Bill and his 9 brothers and sisters. An excellent student, especially in English and mathematics, he earned the WV Golden Horseshoe Award for academic achievement in state history. Also a fine athlete in high school he convinced his father to allow him to play high school football by completing his family farm chores before breakfast.
A few days after graduating high school in June of 1950, he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he received training on the installation, calibration, maintenance and repair of airborne radio and radar systems. Much of his training took place in Texas where he fell in love with the Lone Star State. He mustered out of the Air Force after 3+ years as a technical sergeant and an interest in electrical engineering.
Bill entered West Virginia University in the Fall of 1954 and graduated in the Spring of 1958 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. This was an exciting time for a new electrical engineer as there was a massive shift from vacuum tube to transistor and integrated circuit designs. He had job offers from 34 different companies but was only interested in those from Texas.
Having dated Miss Margaret Anne Righter of Shinnston WV during his senior year, they married after graduation, loaded a small U-Haul trailer and moved to Dallas TX. Dallas would remain his home thereafter. They initially settled in the Oak Cliff area before moving to Lake Highlands where he would build a home and a family for the next 55 years.
Bill spent 34 years as a design engineer in receiver development for E-Systems, now a unit of Raytheon. The primary business was a supplier of sophisticated electronic warfare systems to the U.S. military and allies. Most of the programs were highly classified.
Much of his efforts were in the design and support of the USAF ‘Wild Weasel’ program that had the mission to suppress enemy air defenses by identifying and destroying enemy radar & missile sites. This system was implemented on the F4 airframe, later the F16, and consisted of a receiver tightly integrated to an air-to-ground missile control package. When the opposing force would turn on their anti-aircraft radar, the Wild Weasel system would alert the pilot and quickly plot a course of action to neutralize the enemy installations. The Wild Weasel system proved to be highly effective and saw extensive deployment during the initial assault on Iraqi air defenses during the 1991 Desert Storm operation.
After retirement, he never “picked up the slide rule” again. His life thereafter was devoted to travel and enjoying his children and grandchildren.
He will be remembered for his discipline, work ethic, practical intelligence and wonderful smile. He will also be remembered for a keen sense of right and wrong.
Bill is preceded in death by his parents, brothers Bob and John, and sisters Jo Ann, Shirley, and Greta. Surviving family include brothers Tom, Larry, H.M. “Mike” and Dana “Buddy” Johnson; children Steven (Elsa) of Sammamish, WA, Scott (Michelle) of Dallas, TX, and Connie (Scott) Funk of Houston, TX; grandchildren Mary Margaret Johnson of Buffalo, NY, Garrett Johnson of Seattle, WA, Matthew Johnson of Dallas, TX, Tait Funk of Houston, TX, Alyssa Johnson of Bellevue, WA, and Christina Funk of Houston, TX.
Final internment will be at the DFW National Cemetery July 18th at 11:00am. The Rev. Dr. Veronica Davis will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Texas Kidney Foundation.