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Davis Gilman Johnson Obituary


Memories & Candles

“On behalf of all of the members of the "Men's Night Out" (MNO) men's group of River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Bethesda, MD), I wish...Read More »
1 of 8 | Posted by: Kenneth R. Button - Chevy Chase, MD

“Dear family, I am so very sorry to hear of Dave's passing. He was such a great person and so wonderful to all who knew him. My earliest memories of...Read More »
2 of 8 | Posted by: Maralyn Mazza - State college, PA

“WHen I first started going to River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation many years ago, I was mired in a burn-out job and very detached from...Read More »
3 of 8 | Posted by: Jane Baluss - Bethesda, MD

“Dave Johnson was a very vibrant member of the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, MD. He was President of the congregation...Read More »
4 of 8 | Posted by: Sally and Rick Watts - Potomac, MD

“Soon after I became a member of the River Road Unitarian Church in 1989 I had the good fortune to meet Dave and become a member of the Racial Justice...Read More »
5 of 8 | Posted by: Shirley Caminer - Rockville, MD

“Soon after I became a member of the River Road Unitarian Church in 1989 I had the good fortune to meet Dave and become a member of the Racial Justice...Read More »
6 of 8 | Posted by: Shirley Caminer - Rockville, MD

“I will always remember Davis Johnson who came much earlier to the cause of civil rights, justice, and equity than I did. He founded the Racial...Read More »
7 of 8 | Posted by: NAncy Henningsen - Bethesda, Md, MD

“Mrs. Johnson, Richard and family, Our prayers and thoughts are with you all over the loss of your husband and father. He will be missed by many...Read More »
8 of 8 | Posted by: Deborah Mojal - Goffstown, NH


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Davis Gilman Johnson, a psychologist who retired in 1983 after working at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for more than 20 years, died on April 13, 2012. He was 93 years old.
A native of Springfield, MA, he graduated from its Classical High School in 1937 and from Amherst College in 1941. After working briefly in the family business (Johnson's Bookstore), he was a teacher-coach for one semester at the New Hampton School in NH.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946 and attended its ASTP Personnel Psychology program at the U of Pennsylvania, its Medical Administrative Corps OCS, its Battalion Surgeon Assistant's course, and its Adjutant General's school. After brief duty in the Philippines, he was discharged as a first lieutenant in the Adjutant General's Department.
Following the war, he earned a Ph.D. in personnel psychology from Columbia U in 1951. His early post-war work experience included being concurrently from 1948-52 a vocational and educational counselor at Vocational Counseling Service, Inc. in New Haven, CT and Asst. Prof. of Education at what is now Southern Connecticut State University.
From 1952-63, Dr. Johnson was Asst. Dean for Admissions and Student Personnel at the SUNY-Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY. Following a sabbatical leave to initiate a national study of medical student attrition, he was invited to join the AAMC as its first Director of Minority Affairs where he played a major role in initiating both the AAMC Minority Affairs program and the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). From 1963-73, he served as the first Executive Secretary of the AAMC Group on Student Affairs.
After retiring from the AAMC in 1983, Dr. Johnson continued as a paid consultant to a number of medical education organizations including the Howard University College of Medicine and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. He also did considerable volunteer work with the United Seniors Health Cooperative where he headed its first Mental Health Task Force and initiated its program of peer support groups. In addition, he maintained his lifelong interest in tennis, placing in the MD Senior Olympics and directing several of the Inlet NY Open Tennis Tournaments.
An active church member most of his life, Dr. Johnson chaired the Social Responsibility Committee of the Evanston, IL Unitarian church during the civil rights days of the 1960s and the Board of Trustees of the then-named River Road Unitarian Church (RRUC) in Bethesda, MD from 1985-87. He was also the first chairperson of RRUC's Racial Justice Task Force and a charter member of a District-wide Committee on Racial/Ethnic Concerns. In addition, her served as a "mentor" to two inner-city DC youths and initiated a sizeable mentoring program at DC's Beacon House Community Ministry.
After moving in 1999 to the North Hill Retirement Community in Needham, MA, Dr. Johnson was a member of the editorial board of its literary publication and Vice-President of the Massachusetts Life Care Residents Association. As a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, he joined its Social Justice Outreach Committee and was the founding chairperson in 2007 of its Green Sanctuary Committee.
Dr. Johnson authored five books (3 about medical students, 1 about African-American Medical Pioneers, and 1 of his memoirs) and more than 100 other publications. He also edited reunion books for the family, high school, and boys' camp (Mitigwa) reunions that he helped organize. An active Amherst College alumnus, he edited his 45th, 50th, 60th and 65th Reunion Books and was elected in 2006 as Co-President of his class.
His honors include receiving the Distinguished Service Award from the Premedical Honorary Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta, in 1984 and the Unsung Unitarian Universalist Award from the 65 UU churches in the Mid-Atlantic region in 1990. In 2001, RRUC established a scholarship fund in his name.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Mary Clark Johnson of Sewaren, NJ; two sons, Douglas C., M.D., of Boston, MA and Richard D. of Goffstown, NH; three daughters, Gail D. Lehman of Needham, MA, Joan S. Johnson of Fort Collins, CO, and Lynn R. Johnson of Meadville, PA; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on May 5 at 11:00 a.m. at the Wellesley Hills Unitarian Church. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Amherst College, to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, or to the "Davis Johnson Minority Scholarship Fund" of the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Road, Bethesda, MD 20817.