Forever Remembered… Russell Johnson

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Russell David Johnson (November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014) was an American television and filmactor best known as “The Professor” on the CBS television sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Johnson was born on November 10, 1924, in Ashley, in Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania, just south of Wilkes-Barre. He was a graduate of Girard College, a private boarding school for orphaned children in Philadelphia.

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The Professor: Russell Johnson

After high school, in the midst of World War II, Johnson joined the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He flew 44 combat missions as abombardier in B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers. While flying as a navigator in a B-25 with the100th Bombardment Squadron42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force, his plane and two other B-25s were shot down in the Philippines in March 1945 during a low level bombing and strafing run against Japanese targets. The planes were hit by intense flak and had to ditch in the waters off the port ofZamboanga. During the ditching, he broke both his ankles and the radioman next to him was killed. Johnson earned a Purple Heart for this mission. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and theWorld War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged with the rank of first lieutenant on November 22, 1945. He then joined the Army Reserve and used the GI Bill to fund his acting studies at the Actors Lab in Hollywood. At acting school, he met actress Kay Levey; they married on July 23, 1949.

Russell Johnson in Gilligan’s Island

He was best known for playing the handsome Professor Roy Hinkley (usually referred to as “The Professor“), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on the island, but, as Johnson himself pointed out, could not fix the hole in the boat. Gilligan’s Island aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns continuously ever since.

After Gilligan’s Island with Russell Johnson

He appeared in several other movies and television shows, especially the latter. He appeared in several dramatic series, includingThe Invaders, Death Valley Days, Lassie, Ironside, The F.B.I, and Gunsmoke. He appeared perhaps most notably in the miniseries Vanished, based on a novel by Fletcher Knebel (1971), uncredited in the Robert Redford spy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975), and on the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara.

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