Dave Bowers, John Burns and Pete Smith all alerted me that former U.S. Mint Director Jay Johnson died this week. Here are excerpts from a couple of the many newspaper articles about him, and a submission by Pete Smith.
Former Wisconsin Rep. Jay Johnson, who spent three decades as a television journalist before jumping into politics and heading the U.S. Mint, has died. He was 66.
Johnson passed away Saturday night of an apparent heart attack at his home in suburban Washington, D.C., family spokeswoman Danielle Bina said Sunday.
"He could just light up a room," said Bina, who shared the anchor desk with Johnson in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Green Bay. "He could work a room like no one I've ever met. ... I would categorize him as having the biggest heart of anyone in the business."
Johnson spent 32 years as a journalist in Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan before running for Congress. The Democrat was elected to Wisconsin's 8th District in 1996, and served on the House transportation and agriculture committees. He lost after one term to Republican Mark Green.
President Bill Clinton nominated Johnson to serve as director of the U.S. Mint in 1999, a position he held from May 2000 to August 2001. The next year he started Jay Johnson Coins and Consulting, where he developed a major wholesale coin sales program for a national bank, according to a biography on his Web site.
Before entering politics, he worked as an anchor and reporter at WLUK-TV and WFRV-TV, both in Green Bay. He also worked in markets in Florida and Michigan, and spent time as a disc jockey in Texas. The Michigan native also served in the Army as an information specialist from 1966 to 1968.
Bina, who used her maiden name, Kegel, when she worked with Johnson, said the two have remained friends over the years and just spoke a couple of weeks ago.
"Jay had a sense of humor and an outgoing, wonderful people-sense that was second to none," Bina said. "He was a kind, patient, wonderful guy."
Johnson is survived by his wife, JoLee, and two stepchildren. Funeral arrangements were pending Sunday.
To read the complete article, see:
OBIT: Jay Johnson, 66, Former Wisconsin U.S. Congressman, TV Journalist, U.S. Mint Director Dies
Many people knew Johnson from his days on the news. But those who knew him best, say there was much more to him.
"He was a much broader, wider range person than most people knew or would give him credit for," said Paul Willems, who worked on Johnson's congressional campaigns and on his congressional staff. Willems said Johnson loved music and theater. Willems said Johnson's popularity propelled him from the anchor desk to Congress.
"He was a trusted figure and I think that's why he was elected," Willems said. "People certainly didn't vote for him based on his political experience. They knew him and they trusted him."
Johnson was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1996. In Congress, Johnson served on the House Transportation and Agriculture committees. He served one term before losing to Republican Mark Green in 1998. Sidney Vineburg, chairman of the Democratic party for the 8th Congressional District, said that loss wasn't easy for Johnson.
"I think Jay really missed having been only a one term Congressperson," Vineburg said. "I think he really felt there was a lot more he could do."
After he left Congress, Johnson became the director of the U.S. Mint, a post he held for about one year. His most recent position was with Jay Johnson Coins and Consulting where he developed a major wholesale coin sales program for a national bank. Johnson worked as a consultant and returned to the airwaves, this time, promoting gold.
While Johnson is now gone, his memory will live on in the lives of those he knew.
"I'm sad," Bina said. "It just isn't the same without him."
To read the complete article, see:
Former Congressman Jay Johnson dies
Pete Smith writes:
In his first political campaign, he won election as a Democrat to the U. S. House of Representatives serving in the 105th Congress from 1997 to 1999.
Defeated for reelection, Johnson was appointed 36th Director of the U.S. Mint by President Bill Clinton. Johnson served from May 2000 to August 2001. In his role as Mint Director, Johnson attended ANA conventions.
Given the slightest provocation, the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Bash will make fun of the Mint Director. In a pre-emptive strike, Johnson appeared at the 2000 NLG Bash to make fun of himself. In NLG skits, he appeared as a pitchman promoting the Mint's many products.
I also recall a parody of a bit popularized by comic Bill Saluga. "You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me Jay Ray, … but ya doesn't hasta call me Mister Johnson." The humor of that suffers greatly when reduced to print.
I met Johnson during the 2000 ANA convention in Philadelphia. I found him to be remarkably friendly and approachable. The following year the convention was in Atlanta. Johnson and I left the Cobb Convention Center at the same time to cross the street to our hotels. We chatted during the walk and continued to chat on the street for about an hour.
After leaving the Mint, Johnson continued to attend numismatic conventions. He established Jay Johnson Coins and consulting in 2002. He developed a wholesale coin sales program for First Horizon bank and was business development consultant for Collectors Universe. In 2009 he became a consultant for Goldline International, Inc. and appeared on their website.
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