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Billy Farrel (Bill) Johnson (1939–)

Billy Farrel Johnson of Conway (Faulkner County) is a well-known banker, broadcaster, and civic leader in Faulkner County. He has served as president of three financial institutions, broadcast athletic events on the radio since 1961, served as a justice of the peace, and sat on numerous local and state boards. Johnson is also a development associate for the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) athletic department and raises money for the Purple Circle Club, the primary source of outside funding for UCA athletics.

Bill F. Johnson was born on May 15, 1939, in Conway, one of two children of Hulon Johnson and Norma Warbritton Johnson. Johnson attended Conway public schools from elementary through high school and graduated in 1957. He then enrolled at Arkansas State Teachers College (now UCA) and graduated in 1960 with a BSE with a major in history.

In 1958, Johnson began his career as a radio announcer on KCON-AM 1230 in Conway while still in college. After he graduated, he taught at North Little Rock High School in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). When Johnson quit his low-paying teaching job after only one semester, the school superintendent said to Johnson, “Evidently, you did not get the missionary spirit!”

Johnson was sales manager for KCON for one year before becoming general manager in 1962. In 1961, he began broadcasting athletic events and, in fall 1961, broadcast the first basketball game played in Hendrix College’s Grove Gymnasium. Johnson also broadcast the first basketball game played in UCA’s Farris Center, a 1972 game pitting UCA against Hendrix. While he primarily broadcast games for Conway High School, Hendrix College, and UCA, he also did some radio broadcasting for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County).

From 1968 to 1974, Johnson served as a color man (now called sports analyst) to the “Voice of the Razorbacks,” Bud Campbell. After Campbell’s death in a car crash in 1974, Johnson took over Campbell’s position for the remaining ten games of the 1974 football season. During his career in radio, Johnson broadcast 765 basketball games and 468 football games. Johnson’s broadcast style featured homespun humor based on familiar scenes from southern culture. For instance, in football when a defensive player made a quick tackle on the ball carrier that resulted in no gain or a loss, Johnson routinely stated, “Fans, he was on him like a chicken on a June bug!”

Johnson also had a long career in financial institutions. In 1975, he was named to the board of directors of Security Savings and Loan Association in Conway. After two years on the board, Johnson was named president and chief executive officer in 1977. The institution was one of a handful of its kind to survive the national savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

Security Savings and Loan Association changed its name to Security Bank of Conway in 1991. Johnson remained with Security Bank as president and chief executive officer. In 1996, Security Bank was sold to Mercantile Bank of St. Louis, Missouri, and Johnson left to become president of First Financial Bank of Conway. Four years later, First Financial was sold to Simmons Bank of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Johnson was named president of the Conway operation of Simmons Bank.

Johnson served two terms on the UCA Board of Trustees, being first appointed by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in 1970 and reappointed by Governor David Pryor in 1977. Johnson also served on the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board for ten years, having been appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee.

In 1976, Johnson was named president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the Conway Kiwanis Club in 1977 and as chairman of the Faulkner County Museum Board in 2003.

Johnson married Rosanne Hubbard in 1974, and the couple lives in Conway. They have two children.

For additional information:
Bill F. Johnson Collection. Torreyson Library Special Collections. University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas.

Donald, Leroy. “Local Lending Key, S&L President Says.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 3, 1993, p. 1D, 6D.

Petrucelli, Fred. “UCA Is Archiving the Works of Broadcaster Bill Johnson.” Log Cabin Democrat, January 5, 2004, p. 1A, 8A.

Purvis, Hoyt, and Stanley Sharp. Voices of the Razorbacks: A History of Arkansas’s Iconic Sports Broadcasters. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2013.

Jimmy Bryant
University of Central Arkansas

Last Updated 10/14/2014

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