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Johnny Houston

Mathematician, education administrator, and research director Johnny L. Houston was born on November 19, 1941 in Sandersville, Georgia to parents Bobby Lee Harris and Catherine Houston Vinson. After graduating from Ballard Hudson High School in Macon, Georgia, Houston attended Morehouse College and graduated in 1964 with his B.A. degree in mathematics. Houston received his M.S. degree in mathematics from Atlanta University (Clark Atlanta University) in 1966 and then travelled to Paris, France to study at the Universite de Strasbourg. In 1974, Houston graduated with his Ph.D. degree in mathematics from Purdue University.

In 1975, Houston was appointed as the chair of the Atlanta University Math and Computer Science Department. During a leave period, he served as the Calloway Professor of Computer Science at Fort Valley State University. In 1984, Houston became the vice chancellor of academic affairs and professor of math and computer science at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). He was named senior research professor in the ECSU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in 1988. Throughout his career, Houston has held several positions as a specialist in mathematics and computer science, including serving as a member National Institute of Health’s MARC Committee from 1980to 1986, a member of the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America from 1992 to 1995, and as a member of the Human Resource Advisory Group for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute from1993 to1998. In 1996, Houston established the Computational Science and Scientific Visualization (CSSV) Center at ECSU; and, in 2002, he established the African Studies (TLMP) at ECSU. Houston served as the director of both programs until 2008. Houston is a co-founder of the National Association of Mathematicians, Inc. (NAM), and served as NAM’s executive secretary from 1975 until 2000. Houston published The History of NAM, the First 30 Years; 1969-1999 in 2002 and is the author of more than forty books and articles on the science, mathematics, and education

Houston has received several awards and honors, including the University Of North Carolina Board Of Governors Teaching Excellence Award in 1996, NAM’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, and the Purdue University BCC Pioneer Award in 2009. Houston has been included American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who Among Black Americans, Who’s Who in America, and the World Directory of Mathematicians. In 2010, Houston was named professor emeritus at Elizabeth City State University after twenty-six years of service.

Houston is married to Virginia Lawrence. They have two daughters: Mave Talibra and Kaiulani Michelle.

Mathematician, education administrator, and research director Johnny L. Houston was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.046

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/25/2013

Last Name

Houston

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

Universite de Strasbourg

University of Georgia

Clark Atlanta University

Morehouse College

Ballard Hudson High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Day,s Evenings, and Weekends by pre-arrangment

First Name

Johnny

Birth City, State, Country

Sandersville

HM ID

HOU03

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Expenses plus any expression of appreciation

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mountains, Water

Favorite Quote

Life Has Been Very Kind To Me And I Thank God For It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/19/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charlotte

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Mathematician Johnny Houston (1941 - ) was the founder of the Computational Science and Scientific Visualization Center and the African Studies Program (TLMP) at Elizabeth City State University, and co-founder of the National Association of Mathematicians, Inc. (NAM).

Employment

Elizabeth City State University

Fort Valley State University

Atlanta University

Savannah State University

Stillman College

E.E. Smith High School

Favorite Color

Gray

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28087">Tape: 1 Slating of Johnny Houston's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28088">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28089">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his mother and his grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28090">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about growing up in the deep South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28091">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his aunts' perception of Elijah Muhammad</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28092">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his mother's education and career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28093">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28094">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his father's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28095">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about his relationship with his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28096">Tape: 1 Johnny Houston talks about how his parents met and his father's career in the funeral business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28097">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his grandmother's influence on him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28098">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his grandmother, her influence in the community, and her employment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28099">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28100">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28101">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about the black communities in Sandersville, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28102">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his interest in how things work and describes living in poverty during his early childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28103">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his experience in elementary school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28104">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his passion for learning and his elementary teachers' perceptions of him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28105">Tape: 2 Johnny Houston talks about his uncle's service in World War II and the racial tensions of growing up in the South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28106">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his involvement in Springfield Baptist Church while growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28107">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about the impact of his grandmother's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28108">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his childhood jobs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28109">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his sister's death, his family's move to Macon, Georgia, and living in the projects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28110">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about the demographics of the projects of Macon, Georgia, and his education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28111">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his junior high school science teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28112">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his high school English teachers and the importance of communication skills</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28113">Tape: 3 Johnny Houston talks about his science and math instruction in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28114">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his high school math teacher and his math instruction</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28115">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his extracurricular activities and working during high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28116">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about graduating from high school, his decision to attend Morehouse College, and his financial hardships there</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28117">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his financial hardships and his quest for work in Hot Springs, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28118">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his experience working at The Homestead luxury resort in Hot Springs, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28119">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his favorite vacation destination, Hot Springs, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28120">Tape: 4 Johnny Houston talks about his interest in math and science and his chemistry professor at Morehouse College, Henry C. McBay</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28121">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about his professors, Claude B. Dansby and Henry C. McBay, at Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28122">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about his professors at Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28123">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about Benjamin Mays - part one</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28124">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about Benjamin Mays - part two</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28125">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about Shirley McBay</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28126">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about his memories of the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28127">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about graduating from Morehouse College and his experience teaching high school mathematics in Fayetteville, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28128">Tape: 5 Johnny Houston talks about the professors at Atlanta University Complex, including Abdulalim Shabazz</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28129">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about his thesis advisor, Lloyd Williams, and the area of topology in mathematics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28130">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about his decision to study at the University of Strasbourg in France</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28131">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about learning French and his experience in France</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28132">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about learning French and his travels within the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28133">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about his studies and his experience at the University of Strasbourg</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28134">Tape: 6 Johnny Houston talks about his travels through Europe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28135">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston talks about his decision to teach at Stillman College and his experience there</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28136">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston describes his first exposure to computers, when he attended an IBM workshop to learn to program in Fortran</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28137">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston talks about his memories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his assassination in 1968</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28138">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston describes his experience at the Summer Institute for College Teachers of Math at the University of Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28139">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston describes his decision to pursue his Ph.D. degree at Purdue University, and talks about other African Americans who studied there</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28140">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston talks about his wife, Virginia Lawrence, whom he married in 1969</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28141">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston talks about the establishment of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) in 1969, and the reasons for its conception</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28142">Tape: 7 Johnny Houston describes the objectives of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), and the reasons for its conception</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28143">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about his doctoral advisor, Eugene Schenkman, and his experience as a doctoral student at Purdue University - part one</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28144">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about his doctoral advisor, Eugene Schenkman, and his experience as a doctoral student at Purdue University - part one</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28145">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston describes his doctoral dissertation, titled, 'On the Theory of Fitting Classes in Certain Locally Finite Groups'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28146">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston discusses the impact of his doctoral dissertation, titled 'On the Theory of Fitting Classes in Certain Locally Finite Groups'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28147">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about how pure mathematics is the forerunner of applied mathematics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28148">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about his graduation from Purdue University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28149">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about teaching mathematics at the Krannert School of Industrial Management at Purdue University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28150">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston describes himself as a computational scientist</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28151">Tape: 8 Johnny Houston talks about his decision to become the head of the mathematics department at Atlanta University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28152">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston talks about becoming the National Secretary of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) in 1975</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28153">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston talks about training faculty at HBCUs to use computers in the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28154">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston describes his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28155">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston describes his experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1979</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28156">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston talks about becoming the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Computer Science at Fort Valley State University in 1981</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28157">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston talks about his appointment as the vice chancellor of academic affairs at Elizabeth City State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28158">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston describes the history of Elizabeth City State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28159">Tape: 9 Johnny Houston describes his contribution towards the computerization of Elizabeth City State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28160">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston talks about his publications on the general applications of mathematics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28161">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston describes the growing application of mathematics and computer science in scientific research</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28162">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston talks about the ease of scientific collaboration in the modern age of computerization</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28163">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston describes how he became involved in the President's Africa Education Initiative: Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28164">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston describes his contribution towards the President's Africa Education Initiative: Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28165">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston describes his collaboration with the University of Cheikh Anta Diop while working on the Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28166">Tape: 10 Johnny Houston describes the two different phases of the Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project in Senegal</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28167">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about teaching students to think critically to solve problems in mathematics - part one</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28168">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about teaching students to think critically to solve problems in mathematics - part two</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28169">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about the scientific contributions of Benjamin Banneker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28170">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about Elbert Frank Cox, who was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28171">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about Euphemia Lofton Haynes, Evelyn Boyd Granville and Marjorie Lee Brown</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28172">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about mathematician, J. Ernest Wilkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28173">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about the accomplishments of mathematician, David Blackwell</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28174">Tape: 11 Johnny Houston talks about African American pioneers in mathematics, and the current occupational trends amongst African American mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28175">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston describes his contributions to the field of mathematics, and shares his advice for aspiring mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28176">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston reflects upon his choices</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28177">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28178">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston talks about the Black Culture Center at Purdue University and the African Studies Program at Elizabeth City State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28179">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/28180">Tape: 12 Johnny Houston talks about how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$9

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Johnny Houston talks about his interest in math and science and his chemistry professor at Morehouse College, Henry C. McBay
Johnny Houston describes his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado
Transcript
Now, to Morehouse [College] to talk about the academics. Now did you decide on a major as a freshman?$$When I went to Morehouse as a freshman, I knew I had an analytical mind; I knew I had a curious mind and I told you I had had these two teachers who had mentored me in English in high school. And something annoyed me about them; they would tell me how to do things correctly and why to do it, and then I would find myself doing it and then they--"No, no, you can't do it at this point." I say "Why not?" They say "Because this is the exception to the rule; this is when the rule doesn't apply." (Unclear) "Oh no, this is the exception to"--I say "Well, if it's a rule, it should be a rule." And so I was not--and then in the social sciences, they were talking theories; this is such-and-such-a theory; this is this. I say "Wait a minute, either something is or it isn't." So I liked analytical things and the things that were pretty much straight forward, so I decided the freshman year when I went to Morehouse that I'm sure I'm gonna major in math or science because those--two and two is gonna be four, don't care what you do with it; they're not gonna change. As Mr. Thomas say, "If you heed this compound, this is gonna happen; it's not gonna be these exceptions they keep talking about." So I went there with the understanding that I would either major in mathematics or science because of my very nature, the nature of my mind and what I was most comfortable with. And so I took chemistry my first year there from a professor named Henry C. McBay, perhaps the most renowned African American chemist that we've had in the United States. And he really--he was the most exciting mentor I have had in college; teacher and scholar, he excited me; I took his class, general chemistry, 8:00 in the morning the first year I went to Morehouse. He had a lecture room with 125 seats in it and I would go there and I would sit up near the front; I wanted to hear and learn everything he had to teach. He was a fantastic teacher, great scholar, and he made chemistry come alive, and he excited me; I mean he excited me so much--and the other thing that made me excited was you knew he was a chemist. In the entire--I took two semesters of chemistry from him during my first year at Morehouse, and I only remember him bringing a note or a book to class only once. He was totally prepared mentally with all the details, and he went in there and he could teach chemistry; he knew chemistry and he could teach it. Now there were things in the room like we call the chart of elements [periodic table] and different things he would point to from time to time to refer, but notes he didn't bring. And he had boards that you--you could write on the board and then you could push it up in the air and then pull the other board down and write on it, and then over the other side it had--so we were trying to keep up with him with his writing. But he was a fantastic and inspiring teacher, and he is perhaps the greatest teacher that I have ever had; he inspired me to want to do science and to want to do it well, and I say if I ever taught, I wanted to be like Henry C. McBay.$Now, you did some work with the National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR], Boulder [Colorado] right?$$Yes. The idea was and this is one of the things I can never forget my grandmother [Ruth Houston] and mother [Catherine Houston Vinson] for this, they say you learn as much as you can and so what--I talked to some of the professionals--again NAM [National Association of Mathematicians] helped me on this. We were closed out. When I say we, African American mathematicians and scholars were closed out from a lot of the big research labs, a lot of things. But in the '70s [1970s] they start opening up and start letting blacks come out there for internships, or activities during the summer. And so we said, hey we got to take advantage of these things to learn. And they saw that as a forerunner for being able to hire them as full-time employees and also for us to start introducing the students to what they were doing. So, I went out there to Boulder, Colorado and there is something called NOOA, N-O-O-A. It was the National Center for Atmospheric Research, it's on the side of a mountain and it's fantastic. Every morning, five days a week, I had to get up that mountain to that and I had a window in my office and I could look over the mountains. And it was beautiful. In fact, sometime during the lunch hour we would climb some of the smaller cliffs out there--we called them flat irons--just for the heck of it. But that was a fantastic experience because that's when I really got into computer science. They had the first super computer I ever ran into. A large computer was the forerunner to the big super computer and they allowed us to work on it. And you talking about really crunching numbers and we were looking at data they were getting from the atmosphere. And one of the problems they wanted me to work on was unequally spaced data. It was easy to work on data that end up at exact spaces apart, but they found out then in the atmosphere it wasn't like you draw it on the board in the classroom. You had data that was unequally spaced and so the question is--to give an example, if you had one piece of data right here, another piece here, another piece there that was the same distance, well you always knew what was in the middle; it was half the distance between. But what if you got data where one was here then the next piece was there then the next jumped here, how did you handle that data because we needed to know the previous data in order to make predictions about the one up front. And so that was a big problem, how did you handle unequally spaced data. And that was a good computational science problem that I started working on there.$$Okay. Now, also this is at the National Center for Atmospheric Research? And so they had a super computer--this is your first experience with one, what was--can you describe what a super computer was like in '76 [1976]?$$What a super computer was like in '76, I hate to say, but it was like the desktop computers today.$$In terms of the power?$$Yeah. I mean, see in '76 [1976], the only thing that could give--if you had a five hundred and eighty megabytes or if you had one billion gigabytes, only super computers do that. Now you can get a gigabyte on your laptop but back then that was big news; I mean, that was speed. People talk, well wow, you were getting--I don't know whether you ever saw it but the computers back at that time people were talking about thirty-two, thirty-two megabytes or sixty-four, you were on the low computers they had. But you got five hundred and the gigabyte you are the super computer thing.$$Okay.

Raymond L. Johnson

Mathematician Raymond L. Johnson was born on June 25, 1943 in Alice, Texas, a small town near Corpus Christi. He was raised by his mother Johnnie Johnson, his maternal grandmother Ethel Pleasant Johnson, and her second husband Benjamin Thompson. Growing up, it was Benjamin Thompson who taught Johnson how to read and do some arithmetic. This sparked an early interest in mathematics and allowed Johnson to skip the first two grades. Johnson attended a two room schoolhouse because the nearby grade school was segregated. With the help of his mentors, Larry O’Rear and Stan Brooks, Johnson excelled in high school mathematics. He went on to major in mathematics and received his B.A. degree from the University of Texas in 1963.

Once again, with the help and encouragement of a great mentor, Dr. Howard Curtis, Johnson applied and became one of the first African Americans to be admitted to Rice University. Two alumni sued the university to stop Johnson’s entrance, but within the year, Rice University won the case. Johnson became a regular student, graduating with his Ph.D. degree in mathematics in 1969. After college, Johnson started his forty year career at the University of Maryland in College Park, becoming the first African American faculty member in the mathematics department. He began as an assistant professor in 1968 and became a full professor in 1980.

Johnson served as chair of the graduate studies department at the University of Maryland from 1987 to 1990. As chair, he founded several programs to eliminate barriers for minority students and to help increase the number of minorities and women in the Ph.D. program in mathematics. He received a Distinguished Minority Faculty Award for his work. Johnson was promoted to chair of the mathematics department in 1991, a position he held for five years. Johnson’s mathematical work has focused in the area of harmonic analysis, the study of overlapping waves, which has roots in functions related to trigonometry. He has contributed to over twenty-five publications on mathematics research. Johnson’s current research focuses on applying harmonic analysis to study spectral synthesis. In 2007, Johnson was honored with the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2009, Johnson returned to Rice University to serve as a visiting professor. He has one son, Malcolm P. Johnson.

Raymond L. Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 17, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/17/2012

Last Name

Johnson

Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

L

Schools

Dubose Intermediate

Carver Elementary

William Adams High School

University of Texas at Austin

Rice University

First Name

Raymond

Birth City, State, Country

Alice

HM ID

JOH41

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe

Favorite Quote

Don't look back. Someone might be gaining on you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/25/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

USA

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Mathematician and math professor Raymond L. Johnson (1943 - ) led the way for minority scientists by breaking through barriers and serving as a mentor. He is known for his research on harmonic analysis and spectral synthesis.

Employment

University of Maryland, College Park

Rice University

Howard University

ESSO PRDD RES

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23452">Tape: 1 Slating of Raymond Johnson's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23453">Tape: 1 Raumond Johnson lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23454">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes his mother's side of the family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23455">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes his mother's life in Alice, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23456">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson discusses similarities and differences from his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23457">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23458">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes growing up in Alice, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23459">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23460">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes his family in Alice, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23461">Tape: 1 Raymond Johnson describes his early school-days</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23462">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes his experience in a newly-integrated school system</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23463">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes growing up during segregation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23464">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson discusses the sports heroes of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23465">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes those who influenced his decision to attend college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23466">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes his experience in high-school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23467">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes his experience at the University of Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23468">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes his experience with the American Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23469">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes the mentorship he received in high school and college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23470">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes the post-Sputnik climate in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23471">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson shares pleasant memories from the University of Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23472">Tape: 2 Raymond Johnson describes the summer of 1963</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23473">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his first year at Rice University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23474">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson shares his thoughts on the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23475">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his relationship with NFL player, Frank Ryan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23476">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his experiences at Rice University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23477">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his experience with his graduate advisor, Jim Douglas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23478">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his Ph.D. dissertation research</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23479">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his transition from graduate school to his first job</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23480">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes the tension following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23481">Tape: 3 Raymond Johnson describes his experience at the University of Maryland</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23482">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson describes his brief experience at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23483">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson describes his service as the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23484">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson describes his service as the chairman of the mathematics department</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23485">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson describes collaboration among African American mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23486">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson discusses prominent African American mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23487">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23488">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson talks about the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23489">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson talks about the first generation of African American mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23490">Tape: 4 Raymond Johnson reflects upon his legacy at the University of Maryland and at Rice University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23491">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson describes one of his successes as a mentor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23492">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson discusses meeting Ron [Ronald] Walters</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23493">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23494">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson discusses his concerns for African American mathematicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23495">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson describes his relationship with Freeman Hrabowski</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23496">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson talks about his son</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/23497">Tape: 5 Raymond Johnson's reflects upon how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Raymond Johnson describes his experience in high-school
Raymond Johnson describes his experience in a newly-integrated school system
Transcript
Okay, now, I don't wanna get you out of high school yet.$$Okay.$$But we'll go back to, to high school [at Williams Adams High School, Alice, Texas] for a second. Now, did you, were you involved in clubs and stuff in high school or run for student government or--$$No, not for student government. But I was involved in clubs. So this is the National Honor Society, 'cause I mean I think that was, I don't know what the conditions were for getting in it, but, you know, I was a member of the National Honor Society. And that's where I met like, you know, other people who were very, very smart and who also were very competitive. I mean, you know, I remember the competition for valedictorian, for example, of Alice High School. I was not involved in the competition, but I was observing it. And, you know, having people sort of take easy classes and try to make sure they could keep their grade point average up and have a better chance of being valedictorian. I mean I remember that was sort of the first time I learned about, you know, that sort of social aspect of learning. I thought you just went to school and you did the best you could and, you know, and you graduated, and then you go on and keep doing the best you can. But there were actually these people who were competing to be valedictorian.$$Okay, and--$$And they were all in National Honor Society.$$And strategizing what kind of class they're gonna take to--$$Yeah, yeah.$$--to get there.$$--to make sure that they had the highest GPA [Grade Point Average].$$Okay,--$$And no socializing. I mean, you know, I don't remember prom, you know, or anything like that. But did go to the football games for the Alice Coyotes, you know, football team. It was a long walk, but, you know, it was worth it. And socializing in that sense.$$Okay. So the foot--the high school was named William Adams--$$William Adams, yeah, and the Alice Coyotes was the football team.$$Okay, so they, okay, all right. So they called the football team, not the Adams' Coyotes, but the Alice Coyotes?$$The Alice Coyotes.$$Okay (laughter), all right.$$It was for the whole city.$$All right. Now, football is, when you think of football, people think of Texas for some, you know, some reason.$$Yep, Friday night.$$High school, Friday night lights and all that sort of thing. So what, was it really big in Alice?$$Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, well, first of all (laughter), there's nothing else to do in Alice, okay. So, I mean it was really big, and, you know, for a kid like me who didn't have any money, I mean getting into the game was non-trivial. I climbed a fence a few times to get into the game, but sometimes after halftime, they'd sort of let you into the game. So, you know, we, it wasn't, I don't remember like them saying, okay, because you go to, here, here's a free pass because you're a student at Alice High School. I mean there was supposed to be like a two dollar or dollar charge or something like that. So sometimes I'd just go to the game and wouldn't actually get to see the game. But the team, you know, I think they competed for the state championship. They had some very good players. I don't, don't remember their names or exactly how well they did, but they, they had a very good football team.$$Okay, any players make--$$The only one I remember, I think was a quarterback named Len Baillets (ph.), but, you know, I don't think he did very much in college or anything like that, but he was the star of the Alice football team.$$Okay, all right, so when you graduated, did you, did they tell you what rank you were or anything?$$You know, I was, I was the top ten. But that's all I remember. And, and that was the last graduation I attended. So I actually did go to my graduation in high school.$$Okay, but you didn't go to any of the rest of 'em?$$Nah.$Okay, yeah, tell us, now, what happened next in school now? You're, you're--$$So after eighth grade, Alice [Texas] didn't have enough black students, and so the Alice school district had an arrangement with the Kingsville [Texas] school district. So grades nine through twelve were bused from Alice to Kingsville which is twenty-eight miles, and I knew classmates who had ridden the bus and had gone to school in Kingsville. And I was looking forward to it 'cause in a sense, it's a chance to get out of Alice, at least for a, for a day, every day. But 'Brown versus Board' was decided, and the Alice school district decided to live up to it, accept 'Brown versus Board'. So I spent ninth grade in DuBoise [DuBoise Junior High School, Alice, Texas], which is the first time I'd gone to an integrated junior high school, I mean it was junior high school at that time. So you just went for ninth grade, and then high school was William Adams [Williams Adams High School, Alice, Texas], grade ten through twelve, which was also integrated.$$Okay.$$DuBoise was-I was, it was lucky for me in the sense that the main thing that I recall that happened to me at DuBoise was they discovered that I couldn't see. You know, in Alice, in this two-room school, the boards were very close, and so, you know, it was a very small room, four, four, four grades cramped into one room. So I didn't have any problem seeing everything. But then when I went to DuBoise, you're in this classroom, and, you know, there's thirty seats in a room and the board up at the front. And I couldn't see. So I got glasses, and that I think (laughter) helped a lot 'cause that meant I could see what was actually going on in class.$$Do you remember how you discovered, how, how it was discovered you couldn't see?$$No, I don't remember, but, you know, somehow I, I wasn't seeing what was on the board, and so they, they sent me, they told my, told my mother that I need to have an eye test. I had an eye test, and they discovered I needed glasses.$$So the teacher noticed it.$$Yeah, the teacher noticed it.$$Okay, all right. So, what was the racial makeup of--after integration for, I guess, DuBoise?$$You know, two or three blacks in a class of thirty, yeah, yeah, 'cause we, we were, it was a--there was a tight-knit black community, but it was very small. It was very small.$$Okay. And there wasn't a lot of rancor or problems, I guess, would you say?$$There was some resentment, you know. There were some kids who muttered some things and stuff like that, but, you know, mostly, it was uneventful. Let's say it like that. I mean, you know, the black kids would hang together, and the white kids still hung together. So it, it was more like two separate worlds that were colliding but really not paying much attention to each other. That's the way I recall it.