Billy Graham Center

Interview with Paul E. Johnson - Collection 399

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Paul E. Johnson

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description:

Oral history interview in which Johnson talks about his conversion; lay witness as a musician involved in the work of Pacific Garden Mission and various prison ministries; Chicago in the 1930's; the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle; the Christian Businessmen's Committee; Paul Rader, Jack Wyrtzen, Roger Malsbary; and the early days of Youth for Christ in Indianapolis.

Collection 399 [May 31, 2000]
Johnson, Paul E; 1909-1997
Interview; 1988

2 Reels of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Paul E. Johnson was born on October 8, 1909 in Denver, Colorado, the son of Swedish immigrants Henning and Elin Johnson. There were two other boys in the family - Arnold and Gordon. After living in Iowa during Paul's early years, the family settled in Chicago, Illinois in 1923. Paul attended public school there and graduated from high school in 1928. He worked for a while as a manual training instructor for the Chicago Schools System. In 1930, he went to work for the tool and die department of Pullman and worked there sporadically for the next nine years. During these Depression years, he had part time jobs at various other garages and machine shops. He also took classes at Lewis University and Moody Bible Institute. After many years of courtship, he married Dolores Youngberg in 1937. They eventually had three children - Keith, Kent, and Linda.

As a child and young man he attended the Mission Covenant Church of Grant Crossing with his family and committed his life to Christ there at a revival service in 1930. He became active in many types of Christian outreach including visiting prisoners in the Cook County Jail and the state prisons, and playing his trombone for services at the Pacific Garden Mission and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle and other churches.

In 1939 Paul became a full time salesman for the OK Tool Company, responsible for Illinois and Wisconsin. He became the Indianapolis representative of the company in 1941 and moved to that city with his family. While there, he became deeply involved in the evangelistic work of the Christian Businessmen's Committee and was one of the early supporters of the Youth for Christ organization started by Roger Malsbary. In 1946 the OK Tool Company was sold. Johnson worked for the new owners for a brief time, but in 1947 he moved to Wheaton, Illinois, where he managed the Manufacturers Tools Service Company, in which he had a half interest. He sold the company in 1979 and served as a manufacturers representative for the Apex Tool and Cutter Company. While living in Wheaton, he participated in the founding of the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church and the Wheaton Grammar School.

Scope and Content:

Paul Johnson was interviewed by archivist Robert Shuster on August 5, 1988 at the office of the Billy Graham Center Archives. The time period covered in the interview is from the early 1920's to 1947. Time elapsed from the beginning of the interview is recorded in the column to the left of the column describing topics discussed. The interview is keyed to the cassette copy and not the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 (70 minutes).
Family background; growing up in Chicago; married in 1937; working as a tool salesman in Indiana; did not want to become a Christian because of taboos against dancing and modern music
05:45 Conducting young people's meeting in Swedish; large number of immigrants in the church; description of his conversion as young man on February 27, 1930 during revival meetings; fear of Hell; playing with a brass quartet at the Pacific Garden Mission (PCM) and local jails; a description of a typical Saturday evening at PCM; playing Gospel music at the Cook County Jail; typical responses at the PCM to the presentation of the Gospel; more details about the Saturday night programs; the theme of sermons preached at PCM; meeting famous criminals at the Cook County Jail; description of the services at the Cook County Jail; why the prisoners came to the meetings; follow-up on converts at the jail meetings; working with homeless people; prison visitation at Dwight, Joliet and Statesville Prisons; dinner with the warden and prison officials; description of prisoners' complaints about their incarceration; life on the prison's honor farm; visiting Dwight Woman's Prison; reactions of prisoners to the Gospel services; reactions of the wardens and the guards to the services; Miss Hazard; contacts with Al Capone's family; preparing Ralph Capone's cars for trips to Detroit; experiencing a police raid; contacts with Clarence Jones, Merrill Dunlop and other musicians of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle; the Southside Young People's Orchestra; of services at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle; preaching style of Paul Rader; playing on the radio for evangelist Sprowl; baptisms on the radio; influence of Paul Rader on the later style of Youth for Christ; courting his future wife, Dolores Youngberg; description of his family; high school educationn; unable to afford college because of the Depression; becoming a high school manual training teacher for the Chicago school system; studying Bible at Moody Bible Institute; learning to play the trombone in high school; other jobs he held during the Depression; going to work as a salesman for the OK Tool Company; moving to Indianapolis; travel conditions between Chicago and Indianapolis in 1941; involvement with the Christian Businessmen's Committee in Indianapolis; first acquaintance with Roger Malsbary, a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor; underwriting Malsbary's Youth for Christ program; i nfluence of Jack Wyrtzen on Malsbary; opposition of local churches to Malsbary youth program; Malsbary's plans for Youth for Christ; origins of the name "Youth for Christ."

Tape T2 (34 minutes).
Meeting between Wyrtzen and Johnson; impressions of Wyrtzen; reasons why not all the members of the Christian Businessmen's Committee supported Malsbary's program; description of Malsbary; later career of Malsbary; Youth for Christ incorporated in 1943; other YFC rallies in the midwest; visit of Torrey Johnson and plans to start a rally in Chicago; description of the first rally in Indianapolis; live radio broadcasts of rallies; outreach to servicemen, typical rally programs; lack of involvement by local people; names of some local supporters; influence of newcomers to Indianapolis; newspaper coverage of Youth for Christ; criticism of YFC for being too lighthearted and entertaining; the formation of YFC nationwide; the part the Indianapolis rally played in organizing the first national meeting in 1944; reasons for Malsbary's lack of involvement in the national organization; Johnson moved to Wheaton 1947; excitement of the early days of Youth for Christ; programs that grew out of YFC; Johnson's business career after 1945; involvement in getting the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church and the Wheaton Christian Grammar School get started.



The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives in by Paul E. Johnson in August, 1988.

Acc. 88-89
Robert Shuster
April 4, 1990

Accession -88-89
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following item is located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 Reel-to-reel tape, 3 3/4 ips, 64 minutes, 1 side. Interview with Paul Johnson in which he discusses his family background, conversion, the Depression in Chicago, Paul Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, evangelistic activities around Chicago, Roger Malsbary and the founding of Youth for Christ in Indianapolis; August 5, 1988.

T2 Reel-to-reel tape, 3 3/4 ips, 32 minutes, 1 side. Interview with Paul E. Johnson. Continuation of interview on tape T1 in which he discusses the beginnings of YFC in Indianapolis and his post-1945 business career; August 5, 1988.

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Last Revised: 08/10/15
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