Dick Johnson, the legendary news anchor and reporter with NBC Chicago, has died at 66. Johnson’s cause of death has not been made public. Johnson had been with NBC Chicago since October 2002.
Johnson is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren. Johnson’s colleague with NBC Chicago, Carol Martin, confirmed his passing in a tweet on June 9. Martin tweeted:
NBC5’s Dick Johnson was the best kind of newsman. Smart, thorough, nimble when deadlines were crashing around him. No cliches. Just facts, fairness, and great writing. And he was funny! What a loss to all who knew him. But especially to his loving family.
Johnson told The Daily Herald in Illinois in March 2020 that he moved to northern Michigan with his wife following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Citing NBC Chicago station manager and vice president of news, Frank Whittaker, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Johnson was being treated for a pre-existing respiratory condition in the last few days. The newspaper’s report says that it was due to that condition that Johnson had retreated to Michigan during the pandemic.
Prior to Joining NBC Chicago, Johnson Was an Anchor With ABC Chicago Between 1982 and 2002
Prior to performing anchor and reporting duties with NBC Chicago, Johnson had been an anchor with Chicago’s ABC affiliate, according to his LinkedIn page. Johnson began at ABC Chicago in October 1982. Johnson’s work also brought him to Dallas, where he worked with KDFW-TV, between 1977 and 1982, as well as Indianapolis, where he was a reporter with WTHR-TV between 1976 and 1977.
Johnson was a graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he majored in political science and government. Johnson attended New Canaan High School. On his official Facebook page, Johnson listed his major interests as being politics, jazz, theatre and politics. In that profile, Johnson said that he loved his “profession almost as much as my family.”
Dick Johnson Was the Recipient of a Chicago Emmy Award, a Peabody Award & a Columbia-DuPont Award During His Career
An article on DePauw University’s website from 2002, when Johnson made the leap from ABC Chicago to NBC Chicago detailed some of Johnson’s achievements. They included being the first reporter on the scene of American Eagle flight 4184 crash and leading the coverage on the Chicago connection to the O.J. Simpson case.
The article mentions that Johnson has been a recipient of a Chicago Emmy award and the Columbia-Dupont award. Johnson was also one of a team of reporters who won a Peabody Award in 2016 for the station’s work on the shooting of Laquan McDonald. The piece also says that Johnson was a frequent guest on the DePauw campus where he spoke to students.
Johnson’s NBC Chicago profile says that he was on Air Force Two with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush when Ronald Reagan was shot.
Johnson Also Produced Plays & Once Played FDR in a Production of Annie
In addition to his news career, Johnson also served as a producer at the Community House, a theatre in Hinsdale, Illinois. In the summer of 2007, Johnson produced and starred in their production of the musical Annie. Johnson took on the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt for the show’s run, according to the theatre’s website.
According to Johnson’s NBC Chicago profile, he appeared in the Ice Cube movie, Barbershop 2. Johnson has also appeared in episodes of NBC Chicago and the 2009 movie, Chicago Overcoat.
Johnson Said in April 2020 That His Doctors Advised Him to ‘Retreat to a Less Populated Area’
Johnson told The Daily Herald in April 2020 that his doctors advised him to “retreat to a less populated area.” Johnson said:
We’re fortunate to have a house in northern Michigan. Thankfully, the incidence of coronavirus has been in the single digits here. It was the right call. Despite NBC 5 implementing extraordinary safety protocols, I’m not sure when my doctors will give me the all clear. I’m very much looking forward to returning to work and whatever the new normal might be.
Johnson reiterated that in a March 2020 Facebook post where he apologized to viewers for “disappearing from NBC Chicago so suddenly.” Johnson said that because of his respiratory condition he had “no other choice” but to leave Chicago.