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L. D. Johnson Collection: Biography

L.D. Johnson

Dr. L. D. Johnson was born in Oklahoma on February 18, 1916. He was ordained as a Baptist preacher at age 22. Upon receiving his Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1943, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia. Johnson preached at First Baptist Church until 1959, when he was named chair of the department of Religion at the University of Richmond. Johnson's desire to continue preaching, however, led him to accept the position of pastor at First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina in 1962. In 1967, Furman University offered him the position of University Chaplain and professor of religion. The job suited him well: Johnson remained at Furman until his death in 1981.

Dr. Johnson was an outspoken advocate for social justice and desegregation, a position which resulted in controversy during his tenure as pastor of Greenville's First Baptist Church in the 1960s. After his move to Furman, Johnson continued to engage students in contemporary issues, participating in dormitory "rap sessions" and other informal discussions. The Religion in Life Lecture Series reflects his belief in the importance of student engagement in the often intense ideological conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s. Johnson invited prominent writers, philosophers, and activists to speak on such topics as "The Church and the Urban Crisis" and "Uranium: Problems and Prospects." He also established the Furman University Pastors School, a nondenominational continuing-education program for religious leaders hosted each summer on the Furman campus. By the end of Johnson's career, the Pastors School had grown to become the largest such program in the United States.

In addition to his workload of teaching and ministry, Johnson published extensively. He wrote a weekly newspaper column which could be found in several regional newspapers for two decades, and the Southern Baptist Convention published his Sunday School lesson commentaries for many years. He also published six book-length works: An Introduction to the Bible (1969), Out of the Whirlwind (1971), Israel's Wisdom: Learn and Live (1975), The Morning After Death (1978), Moments of Reflection (1980), and Layman's Bible Commentary (1982).

L. D. Johnson married Marion Ervin on September 2, 1937. They had four children: Carole, Elaine, Roland, and Richard.

Information for this biography was drawn from L. D. Johnson: Prophet and Friend by Maryneal Jones, 1983.