Anchor/reporter for NBC5 had 38-year journalism career in Chicago
Journalists and anchors were stunned at the sudden death of NBC 5 (NBC-owned WMAQ-TV) anchor Dick Johnson, who passed away Tuesday afternoon at the age of 66.
Johnson was forced to take a leave of absence and headed to his home in northern Michigan when the coronavirus epidemic hit as he was known to have respiratory infections as he was hospitalized in the last few days. It is believed however, that Covid-19 did not play a role in his death.
The news was announced on NBC 5’s newscast at 4 p.m.
Johnson began his career at WTHR in Indianapolis and KDFW in Dallas before moving to ABC-owned WLS-TV in 1982 as an anchor and a reporter, where he spent two decades. He was there when the station rose to number one by 1986 after years in third-place. In 2002, Johnson moved to NBC 5 where he co-anchored the weekend newscasts and also did some reporting, right up until the coronavirus hit. Johnson filled in for weeknight anchor Rob Stafford when he was out with a rare blood disease.
Many Chicago journalists chimed in on Twitter to send their condolences. Here’s a sampling:
NBC5’s Dick Johnson was the best kind of newsman. Smart, thorough, nimble when deadlines were crashing around him. No cliches. Just facts, fairness, and great writing. And he was funny! What a loss to all who knew him. But especially to his loving family.#DickJohnson— Carol Marin (@CarolMarin) June 9, 2020
Our newsroom is heartbroken. Dick Johnson loved it all – curious, fantastic story teller, and a kind colleague. There are tears for his loss, knowing Dick was the real deal; mentor to so many, a news soldier. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/2HpmBS6mTv— Mary Ann Ahern (@MaryAnnAhernNBC) June 9, 2020
My heart is broken. Dick Johnson was my co-anchor & mentor, but he was also an amazing friend. He supported me in good times & bad. His heart was bigger than most people knew. My dad told me today to feel blessed for the time I got to spend with him. I am beyond thankful. pic.twitter.com/5kGb9JaBAa— Lauren Jiggetts (@laurenjiggetts) June 9, 2020
Reaction also came in from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot:
Amy and I are saddened to learn of Dick Johnson's passing. Dick was always a true gentlemen and professional. His passion for journalism and the craft of a great story was unmatched. Our deepest condolences to Dick's family and many colleagues.— Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) June 9, 2020
In addition to his journalism credits, Johnson also made cameo appearances in NBC’s Chicago Fire and the movie Barbershop 2, and won a duPont-Columbia Award and shared a Peabody Award with Carol Marin. Johnson is survived by wife Lauren, three children, and two grandchildren.