Jimmy Johnson Jimmy Johnson and wife, 1924
Jimmy Johnson, 1916. Jimmy Johnson & wife Gertrude, 1924.
Walter Lees had been lured away from the University of Wisconsin in his sophmore year by this "Lorelei" aviation. He and Jimmy Johnson, another close friend, met at North Island and struggled through their early flying days together. Although Jimmy had graduated from college, even to earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue, yet neither one had worked long enough to lay aside funds adequate to pay for flying lessons. More than once they flipped a coin to see whether it would be a few minutes flying instruction or a good square meal. It was most often the former, and they subsisted on a diet of bananas and milk.
This from Edith Dodd Culver's TAILSPINS, A Story of Early Aviation Days.

Walter arrived at the Curtiss Aviation School on North Island in the Spring of 1914. He rented a room with his new friend Jimmy Johnson. They got up every morning at five o'clock and rode a trolley to the pier to catch the motor launch to the North Island dock.
In addition to Walter, the Curtiss School had the folowing instructors: Vic Vernon, Jimmy Johnson, Carl Batts, Steve McGordon, Ted Hequemburg, Lawrence Leon, Burt Acosta, and Andrew "Stew" Cogswell.
April 6, 1916, President Wilson announced that war was declared. Major William (Billy) Mitchell, USA Service, came down from Washington, D.C. for instruction. Jimmy Johnson was his main instructor. One day, Jimmy was sick and Captain Baldwin assigned Mitchell to Walter. He soloed him.
These from Jo Cooper's PIONEER PILOT

     Among the first Signal Corps officers who became interested in aviation was Major "Billy" Micthell. Because there was no flying field in Washington in 1916, he along with Major Tom Milling and other Signal Corps officers often came down to the Curtiss school to take flying lessons. They would take the night boat to Old Point Comfort, stay at the old Chamberlin Hotel where the Navy had such gay and colorful parties when the Fleet was in Hampton Roads, and when the Navy wives joined their husbands for a gala reunion. Then they would arrive at the Curtiss school on Saturdays for dual instruction with Jimmy Johnson, Walter Lees and any other flight instructor who was available.
This from Edith Dodd Culver's TAILSPIN, A Story of Early Aviation Days

On June 7th, 1918, Walter and his family moved to Dayton, Ohio. Walter was to work at McCook Field as a test pilot. They stayed the first ten days with Walter's best friend, Jimmy Johnson and his family. Then they moved into a house at 228 N. Wilkinson Street.
In 1916, I drew up a prospectus. In this, in colors, I pictured a plane which was nothing but a wing with control surfaces. Even the engine was inside the wing. To make graphic the contrast, I drew a picture of all the parasite struts and wires, landing gear and so forth of the DeHavilland---all the parts that produced drag but did not lift, with the wings left out of the picture.
     In June 1917, I was given a contract through the Motor Products Corporation, to build a mock-up, but there was no definition as to what a "mock-up" was.
     In late 1918, we were required to ship the plane to little McCook Field, instead of using a Detroit field with adequate runway distance for its tests. McCook had a runway 1,300 feet long, from trees to trees!
     We knew the engine could not stand continuous flights with no cooling, but we were there to prove something besides engine, so Jimmy Johnson, the field's test pilot, decided to take off anyway.
     Peeved and disconsolate, we dragged the plane down to the farthest end of the field, faced it into the wind and, with George Buzane pacing it on a motorcycle, Jimmy opened up the throttle.
     We held our breath as it gained speed. Would it get off before the engine blew? At forty-five miles an hour, paced by Buzane's motorcycle speedometer, it took off and Jimmy leveled it off across the field, about thirty feet up.
     The pilot had the poorest of vision as he sat in the middle of the wing on top. To land, all Jim could do was to shut the throttle, lift the nose for a stall landing and hope nothing was in the way.
     Nothing was.
     He landed safely, and we had proved that the plane would get off the ground and was controllable in that range.
The plane, loaded for take-off, weighed 1,800 pounds. It had a scant 100 horsepower---but it flew. The pilot had perfect bad visibility. Everyone was pleased but McCook field.
From William Bushnell Stout's book, SO AWAY I WENT!
To Walter Lees, whose skill and quick thinking saved the day --- and him too., Sincerely, Bill Stout, Nov. 1952

Shortly after the war, in the Spring of 1919, the Bureau of Military Aeronautics, of which Colonel Thurman Bane was Chief in Washington, and the Bureau of Aircraft Production were consolidated at McCook Field as a unified technical and developement center, under the command of Colonel Bane. Only a sprinkling of officers was carried over from wartime days. Jimmy Johnson, Al Johnson, Frank Hambly, and J.D. Hill were a few of the pioneer civilian instructors and test pilots who still carried on.
From Maurice Holland's ARCHITECTS OF AVIATION, 1951

In the fall of 1922, Walter went with Johnson Aeroplane and Supply Company, also located in Dayton. He worked with Al Johnson and his good friend from the Curtiss flying school in San Diego, Jimmy Johnson.
These from Jo Cooper's PIONEER PILOT

In the International Air Race held in Dayton, Ohio, Jimmy Johnson won the eighth event, the Dayton Daily News Trophy, flying a Driggs-Johnson plane. He flew at 64.07 miles per hour and won $3,250 in Liberty Bonds.
This from The Slipstream

In 1946, Grand Rapids celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the opening of its airport---and of the first regular passenger air line in the United States. Our old line had been taken over by Penn Central, which had later become Capital Airlines. In 1946 it operated from Detroit beyond Grand Rapids to Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.
      Our personnel and eqipment had been taken over in 1928 by United Airlines, which bought NAT, so the two lines competed at the celebration, which originated, I believe, at Capital.
      There was some surprise when into their celebration came an airplane of United Airlines filled with nine of my old pilots---John Collings, the operating head of TWA (Larry Fritz was now operating head of American Airlines International); Jimmy Johnson, who was flying the Hawaiian route for United Airlines, Stanley Knauss, the original general manager of Stout Airlines and the real founder of the air-line operations business, and others.
From William Bushnell Stout's book, SO AWAY I WENT!
To Walter Lees, whose skill and quick thinking saved the day --- and him too., Sincerely, Bill Stout, Nov. 1952

The Early Bird officials received a letter from Jimmy M. Johnson from Texas expressing his regrets that he couldn't attend one of their functions in Cleveland.
This from The Early Birds of Aviation, CHIRP, March, 1961



James M. Johnson was born July 19, 1885 in Helena, Ark. He married Gertrude Wilson. They had three children; Gertrude W. Wilson, James M. Jr., and Robert W. He graduated from Purdue University receiving the degree B.S. in M.E. in 1907.
     He learned to fly at the Curtiss School in 1914 and 1915. He was instructor at the Curtiss School, Newport News, Va. 1915 to 1917. In 1917 he was government test pilot at Langley Field; and became chief civil test pilot at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, 1917 to 1920. He was president of the Johnson Flying Service and Vice-president of the Johnson Airplane & Supply Co., 1922 to 1925. From 1927 to 1928 he was an inspector for the Dept. of Commerce. Next he was chief test pilot and sales manager for Buhl Aircraft Co., Detroit until 1932.
     In his retirement, "Jimmie" Johnson lived at Weslaco, Texas. This past summer he rented an apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio, in order to be near his family, and was having a wonderful time. On August 20, 1968, he suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital, where he passed away at 2:45 A.M., Wednesday, August 21, 1968.
     Funeral services were conducted, Friday, August 23, 1968 at the Dalbert and Woodruff Funeral Home in Cincinnati. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Gertrude W. Johnson; a daughter, Mrs. Robert Bernet; two sons, James M. Jr. and Robert W. Johnson; a sister, Helena Johnson and 11 grandchildren. .
This from the EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION "CHIRP", January 1969, Number 75

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