Interview with Ralph E. Johnson, February 6, 1984

Project: University of Kentucky Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Ralph E. Johnson is originally from Madison, New Jersey. His father was an MIT graduate and engineer. He states that he was always at odds with his father, who eventually decided to send Johnson to military school. When his father let him pick out the school, Johnson decided to attend Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) since it was far from home and the pictures of the men who operated the school looked more kindly.

After graduating from KMI, Johnson entered the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1929. He was unsure about what he wanted to study until he became involved with the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. He soon focused in on journalism as a possible career. Johnson talks about his experience as a reporter for the Kentucky Kernel, and explains how he became sports editor. Johnson describes his impressions of Adolph Rupp, and mentions basketball games like the Southern Conference finals during Rupp's first year as coach, and a game at Madison Square Garden.

Johnson states that he has fond memories of those early days on UK's much smaller campus. He talks about President McVey and Mrs. Frances Jewell McVey. Johnson describes being praised by President McVey after being assigned a controversial column in the Kentucky Kernel, and remembers regularly scheduled convocations in Memorial Hall led by President McVey, and Mrs. McVey's weekly teas. Johnson talks about racism in Lexington, and UK's segregated campus, and remembers a Filipino roommate who was unable to play basketball because Adolf Rupp feared what other Southern colleges would do in reaction. He describes social and political activities on campus and mentions role of fraternities and sororities. He describes problems he had with certain classes, especially Professor Sutherland's public speaking course and in some psychology courses. Johnson explains that he dropped out of school for a while and did not finish his degree until 1937.

Johnson also discusses his association with the campus radio station. He remembers Elmer "Bromo" Sulzer who was integral in getting the campus radio station established, and was involved in donating radios to isolated mountain communities. Johnson talks about his first job at the station which was announcing the College of Agriculture broadcasts. Johnson mentions station staff and recalls that radio was seen as a great educational tool at the time.

Johnson remembers that Bud Guthrie of the Lexington Leader helped him to find a job with the Frankfort State Journal as a photographer after graduation. Johnson later went to work for the Associated Press in New York City where he became a photo editor. He then transferred to Atlanta, and later to Boston before coming back to UK in 1974 to teach. Johnson addresses the bad reputation of journalism and his belief that it should rank along with the high professions.

Interview Accession

1984oh006_af146

Interviewee Name

Ralph E. Johnson

Interviewer Name

Terry L. Birdwhistell

Interview Date

1984-02-06

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Johnson, Ralph E. Interview by Terry L. Birdwhistell. 06 Feb. 1984. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Johnson, R.E. (1984, February 06). Interview by T. L. Birdwhistell. University of Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Johnson, Ralph E., interview by Terry L. Birdwhistell. February 06, 1984, University of Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





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