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In Memoriam: April 2014

Published: April 15, 2014

CSULB Professor Emeritus Troy Johnson passed in his sleep on March 11 after a long battle with cancer. During his tenure at the university Johnson served as director of the American Indian Studies Program (1994-2013), chair of anthropology (2006-07) and a professor of history.

Providing dedicated service to the American Indian Studies Program at CSULB, Johnson was best known for his research on American Indian activism of the 1960’s and 1970’s that was presented in several books, articles and in his award-winning PBS film, “Alcatraz is Not an Island.”

“Dr. Johnson was an outstanding university citizen, an excellent teacher and a prolific scholar and writer,” said Craig Stone, director of CSULB’s American Indian Studies Program and faculty advisor to the campus’ American Indian Student Council. “Dr. Johnson published many books about American Indians and was also highly valued as an editor for both American Indian Studies and history journals. His service to CSULB cannot be overstated and the impact that he has had on the lives of his students, colleagues and the programs and departments that he contributed to will continue to shape who and what we are today. So many people have expressed how much they miss Dr. Johnson, the respect that they had for him, the things they learned from him and the way that he carried himself in life.”

Johnson was laid to rest on March 19 at the Riverside National Cemetery. Donations in his honor can be made to St. Jude’s Hospital. Cards can be sent to Lorene Johnson at P.O. Box 5540, Blue Jay, Calif.

Bob Wells, a former Press-Telegram columnist and chairman of CSULB’s Journalism Department, died of congestive heart failure on Feb. 26, at the age of 89. His death followed a long period of recuperation from a broken hip, including a couple of surgeries, according to his son Geoffrey Wells.

Wells had served as an adviser to former Gov. Pat Brown, Democratic political boss Jesse Unruh and for John F. Kennedy’s press secretary Pierre Salinger.

Wells attended Los Angeles City College, but was drafted into the Army on Feb. 8, 1943, and saw action in the South Pacific. He was wounded Jan. 11, 1945, while on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, but after recovering was assigned to Stars & Stripes, the Armed Forces newspaper.

In January 1946, Wells enrolled in Asian studies at USC and during this time, he formed a political group, the Democratic Guild, with former Speaker of the House Jesse Unruh, developing a friendship that would last decades.

Wells would repeatedly interrupt his journalism career at the Press-Telegram and at Cal State Long Beach to help leading state Democrats, including the 1952 Assembly bid by Frank Mankiewicz, who later became Robert Kennedy’s press secretary, and in the first Unruh campaign, an unsuccessful bid for the Assembly.

In September 1962, Wells was hired as an instructor at CSULB, but a year later took on the job as full-time director of information of the university, while continuing to write his daily newspaper column.

Wells took a leave of absence in March 1964 from the university to become press secretary for Salinger’s U.S. Senate bid that led to the defeat of Alan Cranston for the Democratic nomination.

In March 1970, Wells took time off to work on Unruh’s primary campaign for governor and in June he returned to CSULB following Unruh’s primary victory. He then worked part-time in an unsuccessful fall campaign to unseat incumbent Gov. Ronald Reagan. The following year, Wells was summoned to take over press operations for Unruh’s campaign for mayor of Los Angeles, but Unruh was defeated by incumbent Sam Yorty and Tom Bradley in the primary.

Wells resigned in August 1972 as the CSULB’s public relations director and joined the journalism faculty. He was elected department chairman and was adviser to the campus Daily Forty-Niner newspaper, working with scores of future journalists.

In the summer of 1978, Wells again filled in as a reporter at the Press-Telegram and two years later he became an editorial writer. He joined the newspaper’s copy desk in April 1986 which lasted into 1990.