|Former test pilot Richard L. “Dick” Johnson, a Cooperstown, N.D., native passed away Saturday, November 09, in Fort Worth, Texas. He was born September 21, 1917.|
He is survived by two daughters, Kristie Johnson Averitt and Lisa Johnson of Fort Worth, and a son, Richard L. Johnson II and wife, Sharon, of Houston. He is also survived by three grandsons, Kristopher Abernathy of St. Louis, John Abernathy of Fort Worth, and Richard Johnson III of Houston.
Johnson was thought to be one of the best baseball players ever to come out of North Dakota’s amateur ranks, beginning when he played on a state champion North Dakota American Legion team and later was credited as the winning pitcher for the University of Oregon in both games of a double header. He was a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox farm system in 1942 when military service beckoned.
He flew 180 missions as a fighter pilot in a P-47 Thunderbolt in WWII, winning a number of medals, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 14 Air Medals, to name just a few. He flew an F-86 on seven combat missions in Korea.
He flew more than 4,500 hours in 35 different aircraft (including the X-1) before leaving the Air Force in 1953 to become chief test pilot for General Dynamics, first at Edwards Air Force Base, and later in Ft. Worth, where he flew thousands of additional hours and won a number of national and international aviation awards, including the Kinchloe award as the nation’s top test pilot in 1968 and the Thompson trophy in 1948.
He set a world air speed record in 1948 in an F-86 and was the chief test pilot and first to fly the F-102, F-106, F-111. Additionally, he took over the B-58 test program for General Dynamics in 1960.
Dick is remembered primarily for his extraordinary abilities as a fighter test pilot. However, those who knew him more personally will remember him for his integrity, loyalty, and kindness.
Johnson will be buried with full military honors with his wife, Alvina, on January 7th at Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of cards or flowers, family members request that donations may be made to the American Cancer Society in the memory of R.L. “Dick” Johnson.