Billie Dell Johnson
May 13, 1932 – September 19, 2019
When Billie Dell Johnson was in the fifth grade, he remembers watching a small plane circle above his house in the wheat lands of Norwich, Kansas. “I want to do that!” he said. And he did. That sighting inspired a lifelong passion for flying and a distinguished career as a U.S. Naval Aviator, where Bill earned the rank of Captain. He made aircraft carrier landings on the USS Monterey and hunted Soviet submarines while piloting the P-3 Orion. He flew seven kinds of Navy aircraft, and served his country during four tours of duty in Vietnam before retiring with honors in 1980 after 26 years of active Navy service. During his accident-free flight career he amassed over 11,000 pilot hours. Bill Johnson, 87, of Montgomery, Alabama, passed away on Sept. 19. He was preceded in death by his parents Delma V. Johnson and Faye W. Johnson of Wichita, Kansas, and wife Patricia of Montgomery, to whom he was married for 58 years.
He was married to Linda Thompson Johnson for the past 41/2 years. Bill joined the U.S. Navy in April 1954, choosing the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, and was commissioned as Ensign and Naval Aviator in October 1955. He was stationed at Hutchinson, Kansas, Norfolk, Virginia, Coronado Island, California, Whidbey Island, Washington, Monterey, California, Montgomery, Alabama, and twice at Barbers Point, Hawaii. In Hawaii, he was Commanding Officer of the P-3 Orion Patrol Squadron One and later served at the USAF War College in Montgomery, where he was Naval Advisor to Air University. He and wife Patty made lasting friendships with many foreign officer families while hosting them during their short tenures at the Air University. Bill’s military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medals (2), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (2), Air Force Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service, Vietnam Service (4), Vietnamese Gallantry Cross Unit Citation and Vietnam Campaign medal. Bill saw a lot of the world during his Navy career. During his life he visited 45 countries and embarked on 35 ship cruises and six riverboat cruises in Egypt, Europe and China. Among his favorite adventures: Seeing Africa while on tent safari, armed with a machete and whistle at night in case the wildlife got too close. He continued his strong interest in aviation as Chief Flight Instructor at Auburn University, and flew his 1947 Stinson until he was 82 years old. He and wife Patty, of Rocky Ford, Colorado, took the time to show their four children the world. Despite frequent moves with the Navy, they both taught their children to appreciate the best of each new place. Bill and Patty shared their love of the outdoors; Bill teaching his sons to sail and Patty teaching her daughter how to ride horses. They took family trips to see albatrosses on Midway Island and let their youngsters poke pennies into oozing lava on the Big Island of Hawaii. Like his father, Bill loved to fish, whether on a Virginia lake, on his salmon boat Kokanee in Whidbey Island or aboard a deep-sea cruiser in Hawaii trolling for marlin and tuna. Bill’s deep love of life and adventurous spirit lives on in his survivors. They include his wife Linda Thompson Johnson of the home; brother Jack and wife Sonya of Towanda, Kansas; sister Jean and husband Ray of Sarasota, Florida; sons Wesley and wife Dayle of Springfield, Missouri; Daniel and wife Yoshie of West New York, New Jersey; Matthew of Tumon, Guam; and daughter Jeannie and husband Joseph Doole of Newnan, Georgia; granddaughters Leah Meckel of Augusta, Kansas, Kelly Keenan and husband Sean of Southbury, Connecticut, Rebecca Reep and husband Nathan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and grandson Jeffrey and wife Cara of Springfield, Missouri; Dylan and Ryan Doole of Newnan, Georgia, and six great grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at Alabama Heritage Funeral Home in Montgomery on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 10:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., with a Celebration of Life Service beginning at noon.
A graveside service with full military honors will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at Ft. Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida.
Pall bearers will be Wesley Johnson, Daniel Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Joseph Doole, Dave Ramsey and Wayne Murchison.
Good friend and tennis partner Jim Brewer, and members of EAA Chapter 822, are honorary pallbearer.
- the Food Bank of Montgomery, or American Lung Association to help find a cure for IPF.
- Visitation Wednesday, September 25, 2019
- Celebration of Life Service Wednesday, September 25, 2019
- Graveside Service Thursday, September 26, 2019
Billie Dell Johnson
Linda and Cliff Siegfried
September 27, 2019
Billie,Linda and Matt it was so wonderful to meet you and share our time in Africa. It is still our favorite vacation and the 3 of you made it even more special. We were so glad to have been invited to spend time with you in Alabama and see Bill. We think of you often and Cliff shares a lot of Bills stories with our friends when we talk about meeting you. You have a special place in our ♥️ hearts and always will. You are welcome to come and visit us in NC anytime. We are so sorry for your loss and you will be in our prayers.
Love 💕 Linda and Cliff
September 27, 2019
A wonderful river cruise.... My friend Bill and I met Bill and Linda on a European river cruise about 5 years ago. They were a lovely couple. We all immediately hit it off, and we shared some beautiful days and some great adventures. Bill was a true gentleman. My sincere condolences to you, his family and friends. He had a life well lived.
Leila Arden and Bill Kelly
September 25, 2019
Words alone will never be enough to sum up this Great Man. Thank you for believing in us Bill, you were a true inspiration and a true gentleman. On the flight deck I still carry many of your lessons and great humor!
“To fly west, my friend, is a flight we all must take for a final check."
....and you passed it with flying colors !! Sending Love to all of your family. Alf
September 22, 2019
I found my "young eagles" logbook from many moons ago. My grandfather Papa Bill and I have logged a good few hours in his old Stinson 108. Blue skies, Papa.
September 22, 2019
Dear Johnson family.
I have thought a couple af days on the loss of our Dear Bill.
I think that many people that met Bill thought they had a special relation with him. I think that is true mainly because Bill saw every person. I think he must have been an excellent commander that saw every person. I remember the very second I first saw Bill. It was at Air University in April 2000 when Erica and I was on our househunting trip. We were at the international fair when all the international students treated their coursemates with food etc from their countries. We did not know which sponsor we were to have and I have been very clear that we would not interfere in the choice of sponsors for us. Rickard Nyström just said: you should have the Johnsons. When I saw Billie D Johnson across the class room I immedeately understod Richards urgensy that we should have the Johnsons as our sponsors. A nice smiling and kind face and a person with a great sence of humour. Always that aircrew smile in the corner of his eyes. We certainly enjoyed our year at the Air War College with the Johnsons.
A special thought also to you in the Johnson family that shared your beloved Bill with me and my family. Christmas dinners and ceveral BBQs. I remember one when Bill showed all the kids how to make the biggest splash when jumping in the pool. He was en expert, and won.
I talked to Bill on the phone every Christmas since we met. Always good to catch up with him. He phoned me his last monday and we talked about how things were. I do not know if it was a farewell call but I feel honoured that called.
A true great person had left us and we miss him a lot.
I wish all the Johnsons all the best in the sad two days y’all have this week.
Love/ Anders and family
Lieutenant General (Res)
Swedish Air Force
September 21, 2019
Bill was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I was getting my private pilot certificate. I did not see him much until after I received my IFR rating.... and his comment when I told him I got it! Was...
“Of course, you did!”
Loved seeing him at our Montgomery Symphony concerts as well.
Will miss his smile.
Hugs to the family.
September 21, 2019
Mr Johnson trained me and encouraged me to best I could be! He trained me to be a flight instructor and hired me for my first flight instructor job at Auburn! He supported and encouraged hundreds of our alumni that are in every aspect of aviation! Many are Captains today at Airlines and corporate flight departments! Grateful for his mentoring and positive example for me and hundreds of our Auburn students. He also was an encourager / supporter saving Auburn’s aviation program! It’s now the largest in program history! War Eagle! Fly Auburn! Thank you! Carry on!