Former Tennessee All-American offensive lineman Bill Johnson has died. Johnson passed away at his home in Sparta, Tennessee on Sunday. He was 84.
Johnson, a three-year letterwinner for the Vols, helped usher in the Bowden Wyatt coaching era with three consecutive winning seasons and a SEC Championship. After a 6-3-1 season in 1955, Johnson was Wyatt’s starting guard in 1956 and 1957. The lineman helped vault Tennessee into the national spotlight during his junior year as the Vols finished a perfect 10-0 in the regular season and were crowned SEC champions before finishing the year ranked No. 2 in the nation.
As a senior, Johnson garnered national notoriety himself when he earned All-America and Academic All-America honors in 1957, the first UT player to accomplish that feat and one of just three to do so in program history. Johnson was also named first-team All-SEC in 1957 after helping lead the Orange and White to an 8-3 season that was capped by a 3-0 victory over No. 9 Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl.
Johnson served for two years in the Army after graduating from Tennessee and spent six years as a member of the Tennessee National Guard, where he earned the rank of first lieutenant. He was also a longtime banker, farmer and community leader in his hometown of Sparta.
Johnson returned to the University of Tennessee in 1972 and served on the university’s athletics board until 1996, including a stint as vice chairman starting in 1987. The former All-American was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
Johnson leaves behind his wife, Rena, as well as three daughters, Cynthea Amason, Cathryn Rolfe and Carolyn Bronson.
Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17 at Bilbrey Farms in Sparta, followed by a celebration of life service at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 at Duck Pond Manor in Sparta.