Tom Johnson has served as chief executive officer of two of America’s most respected news organizations, Los Angeles Times and CNN.
He was a reporter on The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph; a White House assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson; executive vice president of Texas Broadcasting Company; and chief executive officer of The Dallas Times Herald, Los Angeles Times, and CNN.
Financial aid scholarships from The Macon Telegraph publisher Peyton Anderson enabled Johnson to attend the University of Georgia, where he received a journalism degree in 1963, and Harvard Business School, where he graduated with a MBA in 1965.
In 1965, Johnson was chosen as a White House Fellow and assigned to presidential Press Secretary Bill Moyers. The White House Fellowship led to a series of positions on the staff of President Johnson, including deputy to Press Secretary George Christian, Special Assistant to the President, and executive assistant to former President Johnson in Austin, Texas.
He later became executive vice president of Lyndon B. Johnson's family businesses, including a CBS television affiliate in Austin, AM and FM radio stations, cable television franchises, ranching, banking, Muzak, and photo processing.
After President Johnson's death in 1973, Johnson was named editor and in 1975 publisher and chief executive officer of The Dallas Times Herald. Under Johnson’s leadership, The Dallas Times Herald was named by TIME Magazine as one of the five best newspapers in the south.
In 1977, Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler selected Johnson as president and chief operating officer of The Times. Three years later, Chandler promoted him to publisher and chief executive officer – the first non-Chandler family member to be named to that position. Under Johnson’s leadership, Los Angeles Times reached record levels of circulation, profitability, and revenues. It also received six Pulitzer prizes.
In 1990, Ted Turner recruited Johnson as president of CNN. He began work on August 1, 1990, the day before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. CNN’s live, exclusive coverage of the 199l war with Iraq propelled the all-news channel into millions of homes worldwide and earned CNN virtually every award in broadcast and cable journalism.
In 2001, at age 60, Johnson retired from CNN.
He serves now as Chairman Emeritus of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, a member of the Peyton Anderson Foundation board, and a member of the board of visitors of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Johnson has served on the Rockefeller Foundation board, Mayo Clinic Foundation board, Knight Foundation board, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, Turner Broadcasting board, and Times Mirror board.
He has received the Horatio Alger award, Ten Outstanding Young Americans, Five Outstanding Young Texans, Five Outstanding Young Georgians, Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism, and the highest honor of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the Paul White Award. In 2006, he received the John Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award by the White House Fellows for lifetime achievement in public service.
Adweek Magazine selected Johnson as Publisher of the Year in 1984 and as Cable News Executive of the Year in 1991. He was elected to three terms on the Associated Press Board of Directors.
Johnson and his wife Edwina have been married for 50 years. They have a son, Wyatt, of Santa Cruz, California, and a daughter, Mrs. William (Christa) Shaffer of San Diego, California, and two granddaughters, Brynn Edwina Shaffer, 13, and Julene Lauren Shaffer, 11.