Jack B. Johnson, the last president of the former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Radio and Television Commission, died March 5 in Henderson, Nev. He was 82.
Johnson was the RTVC’s president from 1990-97, when the broadcast ministry became part the new North American Mission Board (NAMB) in a restructuring of the SBC.
Jack B. Johnson
Before his election as RTVC president, Johnson had been executive director/treasurer of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention for 11 years.
David Johnson, the Arizona convention’s current executive director, said, “Arizona Southern Baptists are grateful for the leadership of Jack Johnson during a time of rapid growth in evangelism and church planting in Arizona. Dr. Johnson was also instrumental in extending Baptist work beyond Arizona in the western United States. Many people were reached with the gospel through his influence.”
Johnson, prior to leading Arizona Baptists, served as a pastor nearly 25 years in nine churches, in California, where he was elected as president of the state convention in 1975, and in Oklahoma.
Johnson was instrumental in the mid-1990s SBC reorganization process, serving as chairman of a nine-member Logistics Transition Team. After NAMB’s formation, he served as special assistant to the president for development and special projects until his retirement in September 2000.
His 45 years of service in Southern Baptist life, Johnson said in retiring, had been “a truly wonderful experience. I am so indebted to the denomination and to Southern Baptists for their kindness.”
When elected to lead the RTVC, reportedly in a vote in which conservatives prevailed in a split vote over moderate trustees, Johnson said it was difficult to leave his post in Arizona – “something so dear that had been so enjoyable” – yet he believed “God has called me to one of the most exciting ministries in Southern Baptist life.”
Johnson led the RTVC in purchasing the FamilyNet television network from Liberty University during his seven years as president. FamilyNet later became the central ministry arm of NAMB’s broadcast communication group until the network was sold in 2007 to In Touch Ministries led by Charles Stanley.
Johnson’s accomplishments as RTVC president also included the near-elimination of a $10 million debt and a focus on technology, leading to engagements as a featured speaker at several international conferences on emerging technology and the church, according to a Baptist Press report in 2000 on Johnson’s retirement announcement.
The history of the RTVC dates back to the formation of a Radio Committee at the 1938 SBC annual meeting. Later called the Radio Commission, it became the Radio and Television Commission in 1955, according to The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History by the late Jesse C. Fletcher.
Johnson held a Ph.D. from the California Graduate School of Theology, an M.Div. from then-Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention) and an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), enrolling there from a sense of call to the ministry in 1955.
After graduating from OBU, Johnson and his wife Mary moved to Rialto, Calif., where he was a teacher and became involved in a church plant, later becoming pastor.
He was a native of Clovis, N.M., who spent childhood years in eastern Oklahoma, becoming the first Christian in his family at age 10, followed by his parents’ professions of faith in 1945.
He is survived by his wife; the couple had two children, Joy and Jack.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Elizabeth Young, editor of Portraits, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention’s magazine, contributed to this article.)