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Bev Johnson

Radio talk show host Beverly Elaine Johnson was born on May 10, 1953 in Memphis, Tennessee to William Van and Julia Danner Johnson. She was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and attended public schools. Johnson received her B.A. degree in English literature from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and her M.S. degree in educational media technology from Jackson State University. She also graduated from Southwest Tennessee Community College's Substance Abuse Program and The Drug Court Institute, and went on to intern with the Shelby County Drug Court.

Johnson's broadcast career began in Jackson, Mississippi in 1976. In 1983, she was hired at the WDIA radio station in Memphis, Tennessee. She has worked in a number of roles, including as disc jockey to public service director to news/community affairs director, programming assistant, marketing assistant, and talk show host. Johnson was appointed as anchor/talk show host for WDIA, and hosts "The Bev Johnson Show," which first aired in 1987. She is also co-owner of Heart 2 Heart Collaborations Counseling Services, and hosts a cable television show on Comcast Cable titled "Affairs of the Heart." In addition, she teaches at Southwest Tennessee Community College as an instructor of speech and fine arts and language and literature, and has taught radio broadcasting at Rust College for a number of years.

Johnson served on the boards of the Rock N Soul Museum, Memphis-area Planned Parenthood and the National Black Programmers Coalition. She has chaired the Memphis Branch of the NAACP's Radio-thon, and auctioneered for the Coalition of 100 Black Women Memphis Chapter's Annual Eligible Bachelor auction fundraiser, as well as WKNO's Action Auction. She is a charter member of Shelby County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, and was 2nd Vice President for two years. Johnson is also a member of Mt. Pisgah C.M.E. church.

Johnson received the UNCF Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1996. She was named the 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1996 News/Public Affairs Director of the Year by the National Black Programmers Coalition, and was a 1993, 1994 and 1995 nominee for The National Association of Broadcaster's Marconi Award, Personality of the Year. Johnson was also the 1996 Billboard Award Personality of the Year, and was honored by the Tennessee General Assembly's House of Representatives for her tenth and twentieth year hosting "The Bev Johnson Show" talk show. She was named the Memphis Music Commission’s 2013 Emissaries of Memphis Music and received the Jus Blues Foundation 2013 Jack “The Rapper” Gibson Radio Pioneer Award.

Bev Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 25, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.081

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/25/2014

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Elaine

Schools

Cummings Elementary School

Burns Park Elementary School

Tappan Middle School

Pioneer High School

Rust College

Jackson State University

Southwest Tennessee Community College

National Drug Court Institute

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Afternoons, Evenings, and Weekends

First Name

Beverly

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

JOH48

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

No Preference

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

As You Treat Yourself, You'll Treat Others.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

5/10/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cornbread, Greens

Short Description

Radio talk show host Bev Johnson (1953 - ) is the longtime talk show host of "The Bev Johnson Show," which airs on Memphis, Tennessee’s WDIA radio station.

Employment

WDIA Radio

WWEE / WLVS Radio

WLOK Radio

WMQM Radio

WKXI Radio

WJMI / WOKJ Radio

Memphis City Schools

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bev Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bev Johnson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bev Johnson describes her maternal family history, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bev Johnson describes her maternal family history, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bev Johnson talks about her mother, Julia Atlas Danner Johnson

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bev Johnson describes her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bev Johnson talks about her father, William Van Johnson

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bev Johnson describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bev Johnson talks about her younger sister

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bev Johnson describes her earliest childhood memory in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bev Johnson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bev Johnson talks about her dreams of becoming an actress, her favorite movies, and acting in community musicals

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bev Johnson describes the cultural arts scene in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bev Johnson talks about her favorite grade school teachers and watching Nat King Cole on television

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bev Johnson describes her experience at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bev Johnson talks about the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on black students in her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bev Johnson talks about African Americans on television during the late 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bev Johnson describes her decision to attend Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bev Johnson talks about the cultural climate of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1970

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Bev Johnson describes her experiences in theatre and choir as a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Bev Johnson talks about family vacations during her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bev Johnson talks about her activities at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bev Johnson talks about her teachers at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi and her admiration for HistoryMaker Carole Simpson

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bev Johnson talks about performing with Trudy and the Soul Ultimates while a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bev Johnson talks about Ida B. Wells and African American Studies at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bev Johnson talks about her graduate school experience at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bev Johnson remembers her mentors at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bev Johnson describes her start in radio while she was a student at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bev Johnson describes her transition from disc jockey to news anchor at WJMI-WOKJ

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bev Johnson talks about working as a news director at WKXI in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Bev Johnson talks about her work as news anchor for WLOK in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bev Johnson describes targeting majority white audiences at WWEE radio and WLVS

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bev Johnson talks about her return to black radio upon joining WDIA as a news anchor in 1983

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bev Johnson talks about the launch of "The Bev Johnson Show" in 1987

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bev Johnson describes special guests and topics featured on "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bev Johnson describes the day-to-day operations of "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bev Johnson talks about memorable stories featured on "The Bev Johnson Show", pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bev Johnson talks about memorable stories featured on "The Bev Johnson Show", pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bev Johnson talks about callers to "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bev Johnson talks about the coverage of domestic violence on "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Bev Johnson talks about maintaining neutral political commentary on "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bev Johnson describes her work in her community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bev Johnson talks about the history of WDIA

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bev Johnson talks about the decline of disc jockeys and the Memphis chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists Radio

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bev Johnson talks about authors featured on "The Bev Johnson Show"

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bev Johnson talks about her television show, "Affairs of the Heart"

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bev Johnson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bev Johnson reflects upon her aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bev Johnson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bev Johnson describes her honors

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Bev Johnson talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Bev Johnson describes her journalistic philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Bev Johnson talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Bev Johnson describes her decision to attend Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi
Bev Johnson talks about the launch of "The Bev Johnson Show" in 1987
Transcript
So you graduated from high school [Ann Arbor Pioneer High in Michigan] is it seventy--$$Nineteen seventy [1970].$$Seventy, [1970] okay, all right.$$Beginning of the '70's [1970's].$$All right, 1970, and when you were on the verge of graduation, what kind of counseling did you get about college?$$Good counseling because at our high school we had the different kind of curriculums, and I was in the college preparatory. They had university preparatory, college preparatory, they had business, and then they had general. And so I was in the college preparatory, cause I always knew I was going to go to college. So that was counseling, but, but where to go to college. I--taking drama lessons and, and being in the theater thing, I got a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City [New York]. And during that time, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts did not have dormitories. So you had to find your own housing. And my dad after he found out he says you think you going to New York City to be living in an apartment wherever you need to live. You better find you a school with dormitory. So that crushed my dreams of, you know, being on Broadway cause I knew I was headed that way. So I had to end up looking for, choosing a, a school with a dormitory.$$Okay, so you couldn't find any housing to, to--now this is a--$$Well you had house--you could find it, but he was not gonna let me go at seventeen years old to New York City. No, I had no relatives, no folks, you were just there. And no telling where you may be living. So that was out.$$Okay, and the school couldn't provide any, any help.$$Yeah, I mean they probably could, but I don't know if we would be living--I would be living in a one room place or what, so you don't know. And then I didn't know the city, so--$$Okay, so--$$So that was out.$$Were you very disappointed about that?$$Oh very, I was, I was devastated. And I was angry with my father for a long time about that.$$Okay, did, did you have recomm--good recommendations and everything from your teachers to go?$$Oh yes, because I got that scholarship, yeah, to go, yeah. The only thing was you just had to find your own housing.$$So now I know you graduated from Rust, but--$$Rust College [Holly Springs, Mississippi].$$Did you go to Rust then?$$Yeah, ended up going to--so end up going to Rust cause throughout--a couple of schools, you know either Fisk [University in Nashville, Tennessee] or I know I didn't want to attend the University of Memphis [Tennessee], which was called Memphis State [University] then. I didn't, I did not want to go to Memphis State. I did not want to go--a counselor for, for the black, black students, they were trying to get us to go to Eastern [Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan]. And we could get full ride to Eastern. I said I'm not going, I don't wanna go, I don't wanna be--I'm leaving, so that was out. So as I said, my mother eventually graduated from Rust College. And so she said well Rust, and I thought now Rust, that's in Mississippi. I had never been to Mississippi in my life. And you know the stories we've, we heard of Mississippi. I could see lynching in Mississippi--no it's not. So finally--anyway went to see the school, saw it and my mother knew people and says we're gonna take care of her, we're gonna take care of her. And fell in love with Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi. So that's where I ended up and graduated, yeah.$Okay, all right. So and you launched the Bev Johnson Show, and that was in --$$Nineteen eighty-seven.$$'87 [1987], okay and how did the --$$That was the brain child of, of program director Bobby O'Jay. Oprah Winfrey started her show nationally 1986. And during that time, Oprah was doing all the relationship stuff. So Bobby thought now we need to, you know, do something because during that time you know the FMs were really coming, you know. Even though [W]DIA had been number one for so long, we were -- said we need to do something different. So he -- so I -- and I remember we were going to a radio event and he says I'm thinking about doing a talk show in the mid-day. So we're listening and I think I remember the promotions director being there, Maxine Maclin and he says "Well Bev, you could do a talk show." I'm thinking no, no, no, I'm used to doing a public affairs show, which I was doing, you know, still, a public affairs show. I says "No, every day a talk show?" He says "Yeah, I'm thinking about putting that together and we're going to do that and it's going to be on relationships and all that kind of thing." So finally I guess after he talked with his superior and they said okay we'll do it. He says "Okay we're gonna, we're gonna put you in mid-day, gonna have a talk show, 'The Bev Johnson Show.'" I started a year after Oprah was on and doing the same kind of things Oprah was doing, but I was doing it on radio. Unheard of. Now it was talk shows, remember public affairs and basically they were community issues. But now I'm talking about lifestyles, from divorce to relationships, to all kinds of stuff, all kinds of craziness. In the beginning it was crazy.