William Richard Johnson was born in 1878 in Cornell, Illinois. He received a B.A. degree from Northwestern University in 1905 and an M.A. degree from Columbia University Teachers College in 1937. In 1906, Johnson sailed for China to serve as a missionary for the Methodist Episcopal Church. In China, he served as a pastor, educator and school administrator. He was active in famine and flood relief work, 1931-1936, and proposed a Rural Reconstruction Program adopted by the central government in 1933. Shortly after becoming the assistant director of the American Red Cross China Relief Unit, Johnson was taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1941. He was exchanged and returned to the United States in 1942. He died in Polo, Illinois on July 19, 1967.
From the description of William Richard Johnson papers, 1836-1936 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702165191
Sarah Esther Husted, mother of WRJ, born in Indiana and came
to Illinois at an early age.
R. Johnson, father of WRJ, born in Ruyville, Ohio; came to Illinois at the age
of 2 in a prairie schooner; was a general storekeeper and banker in Cornell,
Illinois. (The following are children of Sarah Esther and Benjamin R. Johnson:
Estella, b. 1872, d. 1874; Franklin, b. 1874; Sidney Elmer, b. 1881; William
Richard, b. 1878, d. 1967; Harry, b. 1883, d. 1950; Marcia (Lowell), b. 1886;
Edward Amer, b. 1889; Lucille (Jones), b. 1892.)
Ina Buswell Johnson, wife of WRJ, born in Illinois. Her
parents were Joel Battie Buswell (1834-1905) and Laura Shoemaker Buswell
(1843-1936).(The children of Joel Battie and Laura Shoemaker Buswell are:
Clark, Emily (Thorpe), Elizabeth (Antrim) and James.)
WRJ finished ninth grade in Cornell public school.
Graduated from Pontiac High
district school in Illinois
as a cashier in the Cornell bank
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
IBJ and WRJ graduated from Northwestern, both with degrees in Liberal
worked as a fund raiser for the building campaign of the Y.M.C.A. at the
University of Illinois.
Buswell, b. 1908 in Kuling, later became a Methodist minister in
Joel Benjamin, b. 1910 in Nanchang, later became a
lawyer in Princeton, New Jersey.
Clark Husted, b. 1913 in
Nanchang, later named Foreign Director for McNeil Laboratories, then purchased
the Zemmer Company in 1964 and sailed for China (Dec. 9) as a missionary for
the Methodist Church.
James Bashford, b. 1915 in Nanchang,
graduated from Western Reserve Medical School, served in World War II,
eventually practiced medicine in Greencastle, Indiana.
Lillian, b. 1920 in Polo, Illinois, graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University,
served in the Navy in World War II, awarded M.A. degree from University of
Michigan, taught school, married Lt. Col. Clifford L. Woodliff, lived in Polo,
Illinois with WRJ at the time of his death.
Arrived in Shanghai and was ordained to the ministry of the Methodist
Episcopal Church; began to study the Chinese language.
Pastor and District Superintendent, Nanchang, Kiangsi
Whitford Bashford writes about WRJ: "one of the ablest representatives of our
church in central Asia or in the entire nation." (James W. Bashford was a
bishop of the Methodist Church in China 1904-1915. See George Richmond Grose,
James W. Bashford: Pastor, Educator,
Bishop, (New York: The Methodist Book Concern, 1922).)
Furlough. Secretary for Foreign Missions and Stewardship in the
Methodist Centenary Movement, Denver, Colorado area.
Assistant Secretary of the Stewardship Dept., Methodist
Committee on Conservation and Advance, New York City.
Principal, Nanchang Academy
Red Cross refugee work
Executive Secretary, Kiangsi International Famine Relief, directing dike
repair, famine relief program.
Furlough. Studied at Columbia University; Executive Secretary, China
Famine Relief (New York City) during its first financial campaign.
Director of Religious
Education, Nanchang Academy
and flood relief work, directed part of the dike repair program financed by the
American Wheat and Cotton Loan, 1931-1932.
Made a survey for Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, outlining a
Rural Reconstruction Program for Kiangsi Province which was adopted by central
government and provincial authorities and put into operation. For Johnson's
involvement in the Rural Reconstruction Program see
While China Faced West, by
James C. Thomson, Jr. (James C. Thomson, Jr.
While China Faced West: American
Reformers in Nationalist China, 1928-1937. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1969.))
Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Kuling Estate, participating in the
rendition ceremonies January 1, 1936. (Kuling Estate was a summer resort which
was administrated by the British as a part of the Concession of Kiukiang, but
not returned with the Concession, under the Chen-O'Malley Agreement.)
University Teachers College, M.A.
Returned to China without his family. District missionary, largely
engaged in war-relief administration: hospitals and relief camps with
industrial work and cooperatives.
Director, American Red Cross, China Relief Unit, in charge of Hong Kong
Lay Superintendent of the Canossa Hospital (later the
Majama Hospital), a British Government Hospital for civilian wounded, during
the siege of Hong Kong.
of the Japanese, interned from January 5, 1942 until June 29, 1942 at Stanley
Civilian Internment Camp.
Lorenco Marques and returned to U.S. on the "Gripsholm."
Lectured for the U.S.O. in Army and Navy camps, in Rotary
International Institutes, for Y.M.C.A. groups, crossing the United States four
times. His lectures were arranged largely by the Redpath speakers'
the Community War Fund, Washington, D.C.
Had given 361 addresses in twenty states.
Published various articles regarding China.
Appeared before the
Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives,
the course of the Kuomintang's decline, the reformers and their colleagues were
soon torn by partisanship. In the war and postwar years, the Protestant
missionary community became sharply divided--as did American officials and
academics--on the question of loyalty to the Kuomintang regime. On the one side
stood such indefatigable spokesmen for the Nationalists as Walter H. Judd ...,
William R. Johnson... .Ranged against them were...other American missionaries,
whose disillusionment with the Nationalists was intense..."(Thomson,
While China Faced West, p.
WRJ debated this issue through letters, articles and
with a medal by the Republic of China on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek. The award
was given "in recognition of his meritorious contribution." (Box 50, Series V,
Johnson died in Polo, Illinois.
1967 Jul 19:
William Richard Johnson died in Polo, Illinois.
From the guide to the William Richard Johnson Papers, 1836-1966, (Yale University Divinity School Library)