Billy Graham Center

Collection 285 - Torrey Johnson. T2 Transcript

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the continuatioin of the first oral history interview of Torrey Maynard Johnson (CN 285, T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcript made by Marissa Lemmen and Paul Ericksen was completed in February 2001.

Collection 285, T2. Interview of Torrey Maynard Johnson by Robert Shuster on October 23, 1984.

SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Dr. Torrey Johnson for the Billy Graham Center Archives on October 23, 1984. Dr. Johnson, you were mentioning a little bit about Dr. [J. Oliver] Buswell's ability as a singer?

JOHNSON: Yes, Dr. Buswell had a deep voice. I guess, well, I'd have to say (I'm not much at music) I think, baritone, bass voice. And he sang. He...he enjoyed singing. He did it with a certain reluctance and modesty, but yet at the same time enjoyed it. And he sang with different musical groups here at the College, and he sang on special occasions, and always commended himself in that regard. I look back with very warm feelings about that. He also was a walker in those days when walking wasn't quite as popular as it is today, and he did that for exercise. And when he did, he was known to have his Greek New Testament with him. And he would read that Greek New Testament and memorize from that Greek New Testament as he walked across the campus and here and there along the way. And many times he would walk absolutely oblivious of any other person. He was occupied with his walk, occupied with his thoughts, occupied perhaps with his Greek New Testament and memorization of it. His other form of exercise, as I recall, was chopping wood. So he tried to keep himself in good physical condition. He was always attractive a person. He was a very good-looking young man and very attractive in every way. And his chapel services sometimes could get boring, but I never knew any president whose chapel services weren't sometimes boring. And a certain amount of repetition, but he had a changing congregation at least once every four years [Shuster laughs], so he could repeat some of what he had to say. But he dwelt a good deal with the Proverbs I remember and a good deal of the Psalms. But he was also a very strong Calvinist, a very strong Calvinist. His Presbyterian background came out there. He would preach on the code of the College, standards of the College, and he would speak bluntly and plainly and sometimes almost offend some people in his bluntness.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that you thought that he had laid the foundations for the academic and spiritual quality of Wheaton. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

JOHNSON: Yes. Charles Blanchard held the College together when it might have fallen apart, and he carried it through some very stringent financial times and times when the enrollment was very small. But with the coming of Dr. Buswell new interest came in the College. And in his preaching around the country he was well-received and attracted new students and new support. But with those new students and with the new support, he was determined to upgrade the quality of the teaching staff, the professors. So he went out of his way...he went out of his way to encourage men with [sound fades, recorder stopped and restarted] particularly PhD degrees, to come to Wheaton. They came then as they do now, at financial sacrifice and certain other sacrifice that they've made. But when he had these men come, they were academically qualified in a superior way. He also endeavored to make sure that they were qualified in a superior way spiritually. And his requirements, as I understand them, of course being a student at that time, were very rigid. So in that respect he upgraded the quality of the academics. And he broadened the scope of courses, which of course you can do when you have more students. So there was more to choose from.

SHUSTER: What did he add? Do you recall some of the...?

JOHNSON: In the field of science...I think he broadened that field a great deal. I think he had several things in mind in that regard. One was because we were then, and still are I think, in the midst of the controversy as to human origins and the origins of hum...of the universe. And he wanted to be sure that those professors in that department had what he considered to be a biblical point of view on creation and the origin of man and so forth. Then, too, he was interested in pre-medicine, and he developed those departments, so they tell me that Wheaton men now have a much greater opportunity of getting into medical school than graduates of a great many other schools because we built a reputation of qualified men going into medical schools. He built that department up enormously. Then he added what I think he intended ultimately to be a seminary. He added the Graduate School in the field of Christian education and theology. That met at that time in the old Academy building, which was a rather small building with a very fact, I think the building for a time was named for him later on.


JOHNSON: Buswell Hall. I think his intention at that time was to ultimately have a seminary here, but that never came to fruition in his time. But he built up the Bible and the Theology Department. And in those days it was very elementary, but through the years it had become stronger and stronger. [pauses] But those are samples, I think, of what he tried to do, but particularly I think I would say in the academics, strove to have teachers not only qualified in other ways but also with advanced degrees.

SHUSTER: Who were some of the teachers at Wheaton who made an impression on you?

JOHNSON: Dr. [Glen] Cole, whose first name I don't recall, was a teacher in history, I think, and in the humanities. He told me something I never forgot. When I finished college I said, "Dr. Cole, what do you think about going on to seminary?" He said, "Well, that's a good thing." But he said, "If God doesn't lead you to go, don't be troubled," although I did go to seminary. He said, "At Wheaton, we have provided you the tools. Now it's up to you to sharpen them." And I never forgot that. And I thought that those tools needed to be continually sharpened no matter how far along you go, and if you don't sharpen them once in a while, you're going to be a pretty dull fellow later on. And he made a great impression on me. Dr. [Edith] Torrey, the daughter of Reuben Archer Torrey, made a great impression on me. From her I studied and through her I studied Dr. Reuben Archer Torrey's book on what the Bible teaches, and she was an enormous help to me on that particular subject and also on the Epistle to the Romans. When I began to preach, the three tools I had particularly was an understanding of Dr. Torrey's book What the Bible Teaches, from which I had deviated very little and have only developed further. The second was the book of Acts as I learned from my Sunday school teacher, and the third was the book of Romans, the way of salvation, from Edith Torrey. So I owe a great deal to Edith Torrey.

SHUSTER: Was she...I take it she was an effective teacher.

JOHNSON: She was an effective teacher, and I respected her very, very highly. [pauses] I'm trying to think of some other teachers that affected me in a special way. [pauses] Those two stand out. Dr....Dr. Buswell affected me a great deal, and the subject when he taught ethics here at the College. I think that was the only course he taught at that time.

SHUSTER: Were you involved in athletics while you were here? [sound of passing train]

JOHNSON: Yes, I played football.

SHUSTER: Who was the coach then?

JOHNSON: The coach at that time was Ed Coray.


JOHNSON: He had been a coach for a long time. [laughs]

SHUSTER: What kind of coach was he? What do you remember about him?

JOHNSON: Oh, he was a good man. That leads me to other influences at the College that helped me a great deal. Ed Coray was a fine coach. He was a good man, a godly man, a hard-working man. And I would say coaching football, basketball, baseball...

SHUSTER: He coached all those.

JOHNSON: ...all three sports, he did an excellent job as an all-around man. Later, when the College developed, of course, he concentrated on, I think, basketball and football and then later on football alone, I think. You know, division of labor as the thing gets bigger. But there are other people in school also that influenced me a great deal. Evan Welsh influenced me a tremendous lot. Two other men that influenced me later when I felt the call of God to preach to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. One was Martin Luther Long. Martin Luther Long was a graduate of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and he came to Wheaton College to finish his undergraduate work. And he was quite devoted to Charles Grandison Finney, a follower of Finney. And in those days when I was called to preach, God brought me to him. And he had a church, the First Baptist Church of South Chicago. And we would exchange all kinds of notes. And he helped me because he was [unclear] that many years ahead of me. He helped me in homiletics, helped me in pastoral theology, how to conduct a wedding, how to conduct a funeral, those kind of things, anything and everything that had to do at the church. He helped me enormously. And he went back later on to the First Baptist Church of Burbank, California. I'm not sure that he's still living. The second man that influenced me a great deal was T. Leonard Lewis, who was a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute. And he came here to finish his undergraduate work. He later became the president of Gordon College in Boston, Massachusetts. And he had been associated with Dr. J.C. O'Hare in Chicago, and he had a church called the Harrison Street Church of Oak Park, Illinois. And these two men, one from South Chicago and one from Oak Park, traveled on the Aurora and Elgin train, back and forth from their home to the College. And I traveled at that time from my home in Oak Park, Illinois, to the College. And we often traveled back and forth on the train and had what you would call a rap session, talking things over. They were both older than myself. They were both much more experienced than I was. I was simply a novice that loved the Lord and felt called to preach. And they both had churches. They both were Bible institute graduates, both committed to Christ in a big way, and both of those men exercised enormous influence on me at that time I looked forward and then I secured my own church. And I started my first church...immediately when I finished college I had a church. And they helped me, both before I got the church and after I got the church, and I could fill a volume, of course, on interesting stories of my mistakes and my blunders and tragedies and the rest of that kind of a thing. I had roommates here. Dr. Franklin Olson was my classmate. He became a medical doctor. He was from our church in Chicago. His father was an elder of the church. His father was the director of music in the church. His father was a manufacturer. He was my roommate here at the College. The first year I was up on the fourth floor of Blanchard Hall. Then later on John Camp, whose widow lives at Wheaton, Mrs. Ruth Camp, he and I and Franklin Olson and Oscar Hofstra, who was in the men's haberdashery business later on in Chicago, had an apartment together. This was in my earlier days, my very earliest days, and none of these fellows were particularly spiritual. None of them were particularly bad, just happy-go-lucky young Americans that hadn't found themselves yet and didn't...hadn't met some crisis experience with the Lord.

SHUSTER: You mentioned Evan Welsh. What do you recall about him as a young man? How would you describe him?

JOHNSON: Evan Welsh was as fine a Christian as walks in shoes, on the campus, on the athletic field, in the literary society. I belonged to what they called the Excelsior Literary Society. We had two societies. One was the Beltionian, and the other was Excelsior. These met in Gary Memorial Gym, now the...I don't know what that building is for now.

SHUSTER: The bookstore and Art Department.

JOHNSON: The bookstore and other things. On the first floor on the west side, the Excelsior had their room. On the east side, the Beltionians had their room. And my first year before I became a Christian, [sound of passing train] they had a slogan, "The preachers belong to the Belts, and the athletes belong to the Celts [Excelsior]." And Evan Welsh was a Celt, and I joined the Celts. So I was a Celtonian, and Evan Welsh was a leader there, and a leader on campus, always inclined toward spiritual things, always concerned with me and my spiritual life, not me exclusively, but I knew he was concerned for me and prayed for me. By the way, there's another gentleman to whom I ought to call your attention. His name was Mr. De Velde, Mr. De Velde. His son graduated from Wheaton College, Everett De Velde. He graduated with Evan Welsh in 1927. Everett De Velde was captain of the basketball team. I think he is a Princeton graduate graduate. He lives in Vineland [?], New Jersey, I think, at the present time if he's still alive. He became a Presbyterian preacher of the right wing, probably Orthodox Presbyterian. But his father was my chemistry teacher in high school at the Carl Schurz High School. Then they moved to Wheaton, and his father became an elder at the Wheaton Bible Church. [train whistles] And he was concerned for me, concerned for me in high school, but more concerned for me when I came to the College because he was devoted to the College, and he was devoted to Dr. Buswell, and he was one of the founders of the Wheaton Bible Church. There was another gentleman too that was concerned for me in those days, Tom Kellogg. Tom Kellogg was an elder in the College Church, and he was what you'd call the old school. He wouldn't ride a train on a Sunday, or cook a meal on a Sunday, or be occupied with anything that seemed to be physical labor on Sunday. Church, the hospital, visitation, those kind of things, he had that idea of the Lord's day. But these men were concerned for me and with me, and they prayed for me, and I think they prayed with me, particularly before I was con...became a Christian.

SHUSTER: What were some of the spiritual activities on campus? Of course, there was chapels you mentioned. What other kind of outlets were there?

JOHNSON: The..the spiritual life on campus was good, excellent. They didn't face the problems that you face on the campus today, and if they did face them, they probably would have faced them in a different way than many people face them today. We had gospel teams. Those were the days of Percy Crawford. Percy was not a...he was a classmate of mi...he was a schoolmate of mine but not a classmate of mine. Percy graduated in 1929. I graduated in 1930. So we were in classes together, but we didn't graduate together. Percy had a gospel team called the Wheaton College Quintet. He was the preacher, because he also was a graduate of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. At least he was a former student there. I think he graduated. And so he was the preacher, and he had four fellows along with him to sing. And they were sponsored by the College. I don't think they got any money, but encouragement of the College, and endorsed by the College, and the College opened doors for them, and they went around preaching, and singing, and bearing witness for the Lord, and winning souls, and, of course....

SHUSTER: At churches or on street corners or...?

JOHNSON: More...mostly in churches at that time. But Percy was very innovative, and Percy had a lot of daring and a lot of vision. And I'm sure they did go other places beside that I don't know about at that time because later when Percy went through Philadelphia he had outdoor meetings. And Percy was a predecessor, really, of Youth For Christ, one of them.

SHUSTER: Did he ever, do you know...was he influenced at all by Rader since he was a student here while Rader was...?

JOHNSON: I think he must have been. I think Percy Crawford must have been influenced by Paul Rader for this reason, that Paul Rader did a good deal of work in Los Angeles. You see, Charles Fuller was converted under the ministry of Paul Rader in the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles. And Percy was converted in the Church of the Open Door. I think, however, it was under Reuben Archer Torrey that he was converted. I'm not sure about that. But there's no doubt, there's no doubt, Percy could not have escaped. Percy could not have escaped being greatly influenced by Paul Rader. Paul Rader came out here and preached on occassion. He was a very good friend of Dr. [Charles] Blanchard. And Dr. Blanchard preached for Paul Rader too in Chicago, so Percy must have been. Nobody, nobody could have been at Wheaton College, student or faculty, that wasn't influenced, either adversely or positively in some way by Paul Rader, because it was like Jerry Falwell. [Shuster laughs] You have''re confronted by him in some way or another and you have to take some kind of an attitude.

SHUSTER: What do you mean adversely?

JOHNSON: You either liked him or didn't like him. You thought he was extreme or...and there were those who thought that Paul Rader was extreme, you see. [intermittent thumping sound throughout remainder of interview] But I think the later years, he did some things about which I would have some reservations. He...he did some drama work in his church and brought in Hollywood people that I felt didn't help him any.

SHUSTER: Was that at the [Chicago Gospel] Tabernacle or was that...?

JOHNSON: The Tabernacle, the Tabernacle. But I can't...won't pass judgment on that.

SHUSTER: What was the social life on campus like?

JOHNSON: Oh, social life was beautiful, innocent. As I have often said, in those days we had tricks and stunts, but none of it was destructive of property, none of it was hurtful of people. Everything we did was pure innocent things of one sort or another. We had the Washington Banquet. That was a big thing at that time, very big thing. That was the outstanding social event of the year. The banquet that the Beltionians or the Celsior...Celsior Society might have, were quite big things, socially. Then in connection with homecoming we had innocent things that we did at homecoming, big bonfire, of course, the night before homecoming, the football game, and then going down to Naperville to North Central. That was always a big thing for us because that was a traditional strongest revival...


JOHNSON: ...rival we had.

SHUSTER: Was there any traditions of hazing of freshmen, of...?

JOHNSON: Yes. Oh, we had...yeah, we...we had that. I...I...I...I went through it.

SHUSTER: What did that consist of? What...?

JOHNSON: Well, we had to wear a cap, I remember. I forget what that cap was for, but we had to wear a cap to identify ourselves as freshmen. And if we didn't do that, why, there were consequences, maybe a paddling or something like that to go with it. I remember how stupid I was at football camp the first year. We were going snipe hunting. Snipe hunting in my part of the country that I knew so well, but I guess the glamor of going to college and the meeting of these fellows that were to the rest of us so big, just stumptified...stupified my intelligence, and I went out on a snipe hunt one night looking for snipe. And they left us fellows out there looking for the snipe [Shuster laughs], and I tell you that was a humiliating thing. After it was all over I said, " stupid can you be? You know that...that's nonsense." Things of that sort.

SHUSTER: What was a typical date on campus? I mean, where would you go or what would you do?

JOHNSON: For...for a date you'd go to church. For a date, after church you'd go down to the Greasy Spoon for an ice cream sundae. Greasy Spoon was the Greek restaurant, now called the Wheaton Restaurant right, I think, in that particular corner. Didn't have any fast foods, you know, no McDonalds, no Wendys, so we went down to what we called the Greasy Spoon. There was no Stupe at that time, student center. That was about it.

SHUSTER: So dates were usually on Sunday?

JOHNSON: Sunday, Saturday, and they were very very proper. I had a classmate of mine that was dismissed from school. I hope he recovered from it. I'm not sure he did. He took a girl home to Williston Hall and kissed her goodnight, which was very improper at that time, and maybe today too, I don't know, but at that time it was. And he came back across the campus, he met another girl, took her back to Williston Hall and kissed her goodnight. So one of the two girls (they were roommates)...

SHUSTER: [laughs] That wasn't a very [unclear]....

JOHNSON: ...muttered [?] about her date to the other girl and about what happened. And as the second girl listened, she understood that that was the fellow that had also taken her home. So instead of dismissing it, they went to the president, Dr. Buswell, and he was enraged about it, and so he had the fellow suspended, kicked out of school. That's the way it was in those days. And as far as a fellow walking on campus with his arm around a girl, there was no rule about that. You just didn't do it. You just didn't do it. And they did get engaged, however, while they were in college, and the tower bell would ring for engagements. I remember in Evan Welsh's class in the Tower book [yearbook] at the end of the year they had a drawing of a tree with pears in it, indicating how young couples had paired up. And then some of the pairs had fallen to the ground.

SHUSTER: [chuckles] They'd broke up.

JOHNSON: They had broken up. I remember that so well because I knew so...a couple of them that had broken up [laughs], among others. But it was a simple, wholesome life. We had eating clubs around here.

SHUSTER: What were they?

JOHNSON: I belonged to what we called Red DeYoung's Eating Club. We had Big Red and Little Red, Vernon DeYoung and then his brother Willard DeYoung. When I came to college, Vernon was a senior, and Willard was a freshman same as myself. And Willard was an entrepreneur. He arranged in some home down the street to either use the kitchen, or I think maybe he had the lady of the house help him in preparing meals. And we ate breakfast and lunch and dinner in that private home. It was called Red...Red DeYoung's Eating Club. Then there's another building now, right north of Edman Chapel. It's on the corner there all by itself. The rest is parking lot and vacant land, slapboard building there. I think it's green colored if I remember right. That used to be an eating club. The fellow that had that eating club was a very brilliant fellow, one of the most brilliant fellows of our time. His name was Elliott Coleman. Elliott Coleman graduated with the class of 1927. I think he wrote...I think he wrote a song. I don't know if it's called the Wheaton Song or not, "Oh Wheaton, dear old Wheaton. Live forever." I think he's the one that wrote that. He had a gift for writing and music. I think he went to Williams College in Massachusetts and became a professor of literature. I'm not sure. He may also have gone to John Hopkins later on. But he had an eating club over there, and I was a part of that eating club for awhile in that particular building. So I suppose that in connection with the eating clubs we had around here and there and the Greek restaurant downtown and maybe one or two other little places and the games, that was pretty much our social life. Oh, we had...went to Chicago I guess for something once in awhile, you know.

SHUSTER: Was the College much affected by the Depression?

JOHNSON: [pauses] Well, I grad...I graduated in 1930, and I was president of the student...of the Alumni Association from 1936 to 1940. I think it was affected but was growing. And when you're growing, you don't feel the effect of it like you would if you were on a plateau. We were raising money for development and expansion, but I'm sure...I'm sure salaries must have been curtailed. I'm sure that there were many other difficulties, but I suppose the College was like myself. I never felt the Depression because I had nothing to lose. So it could only get better for me, I started at the bottom. And the College was more or less I guess in a somewhat similar fashion, though I'm sure they had problems.

SHUSTER: Now you went to Northwestern [University] for a year?

JOHNSON: Yes, I went for about a year, four quarters, four quarters. I went to dental school, became like McKinlock Campus in Chicago, pursuing that particular field and did very well, very well, enjoyed it enormously. But there was also at the same time an inner conflict, inner conflict. And I remember Harry Rimmer, Dr. Harry Rimmer, who had studied medicine but hadn't completed his work, said one time something that stuck in my mind. He said, "I was going to be a doctor, and I got into my fourth year I think in medical school. And I thought to myself, I'll minister to these people health and strength and so forth, and then one day they'll die. That's the end of it. But if I preach the gospel, they'll have eternal life." Of course, that's a rather superficial kind of a reasoning, but it got to me. I got to thinking, "Well, yes, I could do these things, but maybe there's something more." And that got to me until finally out of a inward struggle I said, "Lord I'll do what you want me to do." I tried to bargain with the Lord. I said, "Lord, if I become a dentist, an oral surgeon, and I become successful, I'll make lots of money," which I thought I would and I haven't changed my mind about it. Because [laughs] when I think about what they make and what I make I'm quite sure it's true [laughs]. So I said, "I'll send somebody in my place." I told the Lord how poor a missionary I'd be. And I...I upped it a little bit. I said, "Lord, I'll send two." Upped it some more you know. All the time I thought about what I'd get too, you know. Finally...finally the Lord said, "I want you." [pauses] And there was no other way to go, so I surrendered to the Lord. And if there is a distinction between receiving Christ as Savior and making Christ Lord, then that happened to me.

SHUSTER: And then you returned to Wheaton?

JOHNSON: Then I returned to Wheaton, which was rather.... I suppose as I look at it now...I didn't feel it then. At first I think I did feel it the first little bit. I thought was a kind of a humiliating thing. You know, I was going with great prospects and now coming back, but it didn' didn't take long before that may have worn off. And I just noticed in the Tower the other day. (I was doing some work around the house.) I looked at that. I thought, "Yeah, I'm going to see what they say about me in there." So under my picture they had something, I don't remember the exact words because I didn't know what I'd tell you, but something about Torrey Johnson being very serious and business-like, and something to that effect. Well, I was because when I came back I knew.

SHUSTER: Knew what you wanted.

JOHNSON: And that was it, that was it. And I pursued that course and nothing deterred me then from that time on. There were other men around here that were wonderful men. I should mention them to you too. Paul Allen. He's now retired, lives in Florida, graduated Northern Baptist Seminary, was pastor of the Judson Baptist Church of New York for awhi...of Oak Park for awhile, became a part of the administrative group in the American Baptist Convention in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He's now retired. He was one of a number of people who used to go down to the railroad stations in the morning, the evening, give out tracts.

SHUSTER: Down in Chicago?


SHUSTER: Oh, in Wheaton.

JOHNSON: Right here in Wheaton. In Chicago too I'm sure, but here. And then there was another fellow named Carl Anderson. He became a Presbyterian minister. He was the fellow that first organized the idea of giving out Gospels of John at football games. And he organized students here to go to Stagg Field in Chicago at the University of Chicago, or Dyche Stadium at Northwestern, or down in Champagne, different universities on Saturday afternoons and give out Gospels of John with a forward by A.A. [Amos Alonzo] Stagg, (who was the dean of all college football coaches, I guess you know that) of his testimony. He was the forerunner of that thing which later on became a lot of other things and moved in many different directions. Those fellows were here when I was here, and they were doing those kind of things. I'm not sure...I'm not sure whether in recent years they've got those innovative, creative personalities. You would know more about that than I do. I just don't know whether...whether it was the time. I can't say, but we had a lot of people with creative innovation and vision and courage and daring that all played in on all of our lives. We had another fellow named Dr. Titus Johnson who went steerage to Africa as a missionary. And then he came back to the College here and told us of going way out into the wilds of Africa, sort of a David Livingstone-type of a deal, you know, and just.... And, of course, Buswell was alive with that kind of a thing. And so were confronted with these kind of a things. And then the evangelistic meetings. They were dead earnest kinds of things, open, outward expression, not this laid-back kind of a thing we have today, you know. The younger generation seems to like the laid back more, and yet [pauses] that was it.

SHUSTER: Let me ask you one other thing, a last question, since it relates to Wheaton. In Paul Bechtel's new history [Wheaton College: A Heritage Remembered, 1860-1984] of Wheaton that's just come out, he mentions about the petition which you had brought to the Board of Trustees in 1939.

JOHNSON: The what?

SHUSTER: Petition from students that you brought to the Board of Trustees in 1939 about a examination of the College. Do you recall what that was about?

JOHNSON: No, I don't. No, I don't. I...I was in between being the president of the Alumni Association. I...I knew that Buswell had to go. There was no way that he could stay.

SHUSTER: Because of the Presbyterian...?

JOHNSON: Because of that controversy. I think that it was more of the thing that kicked it off. It was central. He was a...he was a Fundamentalist, and I suppose you would identify him today as a right wing Fundamentalist today. At that time it was not quite so much right wing because conservatives were a good deal that way at that time. Now it's more like right wing. I...I felt that he had to go, but in some ways I wouldn't want him to go. I wish there was a way we could have saved him for the College and for the work because he had done so much good academically and spiritually. And the things for which he stood were right, but he was not a man to handle those things in that position. Others could do it. Pastors might do it. Other denominational leaders might do it. But as I told you, being the president of the College, you are the College in that sense of the word just as a political leader is that party at that particular juncture. So I don't know anything about that petition particularly. I just knew that things were there. And it may be that I went to that lunch with Dr. Buswell because he perhaps wanted to know where I stood on that. And had he asked me I would have told him that he had so many virtues, if he could somehow detach himself from some of these liabilities, he could go on, because I think even his bitterest opponents loved him and respected him. I think they did.

SHUSTER: Was there anything else you wanted to add about your years at Wheaton or your early years?

JOHNSON: No, just, I think I've summed up, in a rambling kind of a way, the atmosphere that was here, the kind of men that were here. Now it may be because they're my contemporaries they look so good to me, you know, Percy Crawford, Steve Paine.

SHUSTER: They look good to me too [laughs].


SHUSTER: Look good to me too.

JOHNSON: They were...they...they...they were...they were great men. It may be that it was the beginning of a new era [coughs]. Maybe it was the beginning of a new era and therefore you had all this innovation. And so much of what you see today has its roots back in those days. And when we talk about Youth for Christ, I will try to give you something of the roots of it. And probably...probably I'm better qualified to do that than almost anybody else involved in the movement because I just happened to be a few years older than the other fellows. And I was the only one, together with Bob Cook, that had much of an academic background, so that probably I can share with you the roots of it and how God did it because the whole thing is of the Lord.

SHUSTER: Well, why don't we conclude on that note and in our next interview we'll pick up with the roots of Youth for Christ. Thank you.


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Last Revised: 03/13/01
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© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2005