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Malvyn Johnson

Journalist and civil rights activist Malvyn “Mal” Johnson was born July 4, 1924, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Johnson and her four siblings, Alice, Artie, Harvey and Norma, were primarily raised by their mother, Johnnie Reeves Taft, because their father left the family when Malvyn was still young; her mother would later remarry. Johnson attended Temple University, where she earned her B.A. degree while working to pay her own way through school as a riveter in the naval yards, among other jobs.

After graduation, Johnson began working for Veterans Affairs before moving on to become the program director for the local YWCA. Johnson soon married her husband, Frank Benjamin Johnson, whom she had known since she was twelve years old; the couple moved to California until the Korean War separated them, and Johnson was forced to return to her hometown. Because of her husband's service in the Air Force, Johnson and her husband traveled extensively beginning in the mid-1950s, including periods in Redding, England, Maine, and Wyoming. While traveling, Johnson began to teach.

Johnson returned to the United States to attend Springfield University in Massachusetts, where she received her M.A. degree in intergroup relations and community dynamics. Johnson’s husband tragically died at the Westover Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, and Johnson continued teaching. Prior to moving back to Philadelphia, Johnson got a job at the Philadelphia Inquirer as the assistant to the editor; at this time, she also became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Johnson eventually left the Philadelphia Inquirer to work with the North City Congress, a Civil Rights organization in Philadelphia, where she worked for two years alongside such luminaries as C. Delores Tucker; she also served as a co-chair of the local NAACP chapter with Tucker. In 1964, Johnson became director of community affairs for WKBS-TV, and worked as the "Cash for Trash" girl. Johnson soon became a news anchor and wrote as a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune.

In 1969, Johnson was offered a job at Cox Broadcasting Corporation in Washington, D.C. after Barbara Walters and Jim Vance, both close colleagues of Johnson, encouraged her to take the position; she stayed with this organization for twenty-seven years. Johnson was the first female reporter employed by Cox and became the second African American female White House correspondent. Johnson covered five different United States Presidents, as well as Capitol Hill and the State Department. In 1980, Johnson became the Senior Washington Correspondent and the National Director of Community Affairs. Johnson also served as a representative of the United Nations International Association of Women in Radio and Television. Johnson also helped to found the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Broadcast Association for Community Affairs. In 2000, Johnson left Cox to create her own media consulting firm, Medialinx International.

Malvyn “Mal” Johnson passed away on November 7, 2007, at the age of eighty-five.

Accession Number

A2005.219

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/20/2005 |and| 1/31/2006

9/20/2005

1/31/2006

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Schools

John Hancock Demonstration Elementary School

Philadelphia Military Academy

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Malvyn

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

JOH23

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

London, England, Solomons Island

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/4/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

11/7/2007

Short Description

Media consultant and television and radio correspondent Malvyn Johnson (1924 - 2007 ) was the first female reporter for Cox Radio and Television News Bureau in Washington, D.C. and the second African American female White House correspondent. In 2000, Johnson founded Medialinx International, a media consulting firm.

Employment

Young Women's Christian Association

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

RAF Greenham Common

Philadelphia Inquirer

WKBS-TV Philadelphia

Cox Communications, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Malvyn Johnson's interview, session 1

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

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson describes her early homes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson describes her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Malvyn Johnson describes her stepfather's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her diverse neighborhood and schools

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson describes her mother's education and profession

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her experiences with racial prejudice in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson describes the Philadelphia High School for Girls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson recalls working while attending Temple University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson remembers her experiences at Temple University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson describes how she met her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson talks about her husband's service in the U.S. Army Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her experiences as a housekeeper, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her experiences as a housekeeper, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson describes Royal Air Force Greenham Common in Reading, England

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson remembers her husband's death

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson recalls teaching herself to drive

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson describes her position at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson describes the start of her television broadcasting career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson describes her experiences with racial discrimination at WKBS-TV

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson remembers her friendship with Pearl Buck

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson recalls becoming a White House correspondent

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson describes her involvement with the American Women in Radio and Television

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson remembers interviewing Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her trip to Russia with President Richard Milhous Nixon

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson remembers fellow journalist Ethel Payne

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her arrest in Johannesburg, South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Malvyn Johnson describes the Fourth World Conference on Women

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Malvyn Johnson's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson describes her position with Cox Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her interviews with politicians

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson talks about Cox Broadcasting Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson talks about the members of the U.S. Congress

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson describes the founding of the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson remembers her social gatherings at the Watergate Hotel

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson remembers her mentors, Helen Thomas and Sarah McClendon

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson remembers reporter Sarah McClendon

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson describes her involvement with the American Women in Radio and Television

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson remembers President Richard Milhous Nixon's administration

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson recalls the United Airlines Flight 553 crash in 1972

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson corrects information regarding Sam Ervin and Sam Rayburn

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her coverage of the presidential campaign in the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson describes her experiences with President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.'s administration

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson recalls her first meeting with Nancy Reagan

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Malvyn Johnson describes her involvement with the National Women's Conference

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Malvyn Johnson describes her work at the Fourth World Conference on Women, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson describes her work at the Fourth World Conference on Women, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Malvyn Johnson describes her involvement with women's rights organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Malvyn Johnson describes government involvement in the 1990s, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Malvyn Johnson describes her government involvement in the 1990s, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Malvyn Johnson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Malvyn Johnson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Malvyn Johnson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Malvyn Johnson narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Malvyn Johnson narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$2

DATape

4$7

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Malvyn Johnson recalls becoming a White House correspondent
Malvyn Johnson describes her involvement with women's rights organizations
Transcript
There came a time when [HistoryMaker] Jim Vance, who was the anchor with the NBC affiliate here in Washington, D.C., left Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] to come to Washington?$$Well he was working as the anchor at WKBS [WKBS-TV, Burlington, New Jersey] by then. And he got a--obviously somebody had, had saw him on TV and they invited him to go to work there. Well Jim didn't really want to leave his family, his mother, with whom he was living. So he came in my office to talk to me about this. And I said to him, "You know, I don't count any fools among my friends, you must take this job." So he did. And then three months later I got an offer and I called him up and said, "What do you think?" And he said, "I don't count any fools among my friends (laughter)." So we both ended up in Washington.$$And tell us about the offer that you received?$$I was--the, the first person that hired me turned out to be a good friend. He was the man who was, who had originally been on the soap operas and he turned out to be a good friend to me and he said that I should join the American Women in Radio and Television [Alliance for Women in Media], an organization I had never heard of. And he paid my, my membership for it and I joined it and got totally involved in it and ended up being the president of that chapter in Philadelphia and then ended up being on the national board of directors. And one weekend we were to have the board meeting in Washington. So I traveled down to Washington to the board meeting and when I arrived, there sat this only man on the board. I didn't know the board had a man. It turned out to be the president and CEO of Cox Broadcasting [Cox Broadcasting Corporation; Cox Communications, Inc.] headquartered in Atlanta [Georgia]. And we talked and discussed things and finally he invited me to lunch. And this dummy said, "Well I have these other ladies I'm going to lunch with." He said, "Well I'll take them too." So we all went to lunch and I sat near him and he said to me, you ought to come to Atlanta sometime and I very politely said that I had been there one or two times, but I didn't know Atlanta at all and that maybe I would sometime. Well the next day back in Philadelphia, in my office that Monday, I get this telephone call from him and he said he'd like me to come and visit. So I said, "Well maybe I will." And he said, "Let me send you a ticket and if you really decide not to go then you can just send the ticket back." So when I got the ticket I went into the office of the same general manager and told him and he says, "Let me tell you who this man is." And so he said that he not only taught Truman [President Harry S. Truman] to speak, he was the man who put together the fireside chats for Roosevelt [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt]. And he set all of that up and then he became Mr. Democrat [sic.] because he was running the democratic conventions [Democratic National Convention] and everything (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) His name was?$$J. Leonard Reinsch. And, and everybody knew him in the broadcasting industry and that I should go 'cause he wants to hire you. So I made the arrangements and went, and that was, was my story.$$Okay, and that year was 19-?$$Sixty-nine [1969].$$And they hired you at Cox?$$No, they tried to hire me and I said that I didn't particularly want to move to Atlanta, didn't know a thing about Atlanta anyway, except that I knew Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] and that was only one or two trips. And so I went back to, to Philadelphia and they kept after me for a couple of weeks and finally they asked me what salary would I take. Well I haven't the faintest idea. So I called up Barbara Walters and asked her what I ought to do. And she said, "You ask for twice the amount you're--two and a half times the amount that you are making now and you accept two times that much. And don't--and make 'em put it in writing before you accept." And so I did that and they sent me a telegram with it in write.$$Now let's--and so you were hired?$$I was hired, but then I said I didn't want to move to Atlanta and they said, "Don't worry, we have an office in Washington." So I guess there comes another story because I went--they had setup the appointment and I went to Washington and met the bureau chief who looked at me as if I were crazy and didn't even consider it. So I came back home and called Atlanta and said those people don't wanna be bothered with me in, in, in Washington. And he said I want you to go back next week. When I went back next week, everybody was falling on their knees to get me (laughter). And that's how it started. And they trained me to be a White House correspondent.$$And the date we are looking at, do you remember?$$Yes, March the 3rd, 1969.$You have been active before and after that time working on different women's issues, putting on a number of international and national conferences, both here and abroad and so forth. Could you just briefly outline a couple of them as to what they were?$$Well I became an activist after my husband [Frank Johnson (ph.)] died. As a matter of fact I became a feminist after my husband died and got myself totally involved in trying to raise the condition of women throughout the world, particularly through the United States at first and then I worked toward international projects as well. And I've been involved in a number of them and have gone to every one of the, of the women's conferences that have been held through the years. And they were mostly every five years. And this last one was in 2000 and we did not have one in 2005. But in any case, women have not reached equal status in various areas, like for instance in, in pay equity, in various other issues that, that concern women. Women are not admitted in all-men's clubs and things like that. Women still don't have complete control of their own bodies in terms of abortions or pro-choice, things like that. So there is still lots to do and there are a lot of people that do it. What--we have some great concern is about those in my era know what is was to go through the struggles that we went through, but we have not trained our children about it and they don't know from whence they come. We need to give them more history of the struggle. They think that it was all there all the time, and it wasn't all there all the time. So those are some of the things that, that concern us in the, in the women's movement.$$And you are still active with the American Women in Radio and Television [Alliance for Women in Media] (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I'm still very much active with International Association of Women in Radio and Television [IAWRT] headquartered in India, and with American Women in Radio and Television and it's, of course, right here in the United States. So--and with the IAWRT, I do travel a lot to various countries around the world.$$Okay. And you are still doing a program with the UN [United Nations] and women?$$I'm still very much involved at the UN. I am the United Nations representative for International Association of Women in Radio and Television. And I still attend their meetings and participate in that and sometimes do workshops on media for them. And I am on their media committee as a matter of fact.