It is with great sadness that we share that Barclay Johnson '53, longtime Taft English teacher, died on July 3, 2018, at the age of 83.
It is with great sadness that we share that Barclay Johnson '53, longtime Taft English teacher, died on July 3, 2018, at the age of 83. (Read the full obituary.)
He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, with two younger sisters. He proudly loved his father, Barclay '27, a Navy veteran of WWII, and his mother, Susie. Like his father, Barclay attended Taft. He graduated with the Class of '53 after putting on a theatrical roast of the faculty.
He studied literature at Middlebury College and graduated in 1957 after writing and producing two musical comedies. As a 1st lieutenant of the U.S. Army Armored Corps in 1958, he led a squadron of tanks.
Johnson started teaching English and coaching football and track at Taft in 1961. He led the school's Independent Learning Programs and served as Dean of Faculty. Headmaster Emeritus Lance Odden recalled, "For nearly 40 years Barclay Johnson was Taft's beloved teacher, coach, and school master. Great characters make great schools and Barclay Johnson stood at the foremost of that group of inspirational leaders touching the lives of thousands of Taft students."
As Headmaster MacMullen '78 wrote to the Taft community, Barclay Johnson was a legend at Taft. "Barclay possessed an incredible energy and intellect: when he walked in the room—the classroom, the faculty room, the department room—you knew he had arrived," said Mr. MacMullen. "He was physically big, he had a booming voice, and he had an unquenchable enthusiasm for life. Barclay made friends everywhere, and once you met him, you never forgot him. In the English department, he was beloved and respected. His colleagues knew that there was perhaps no one who read literature, drama, and poetry with more passion and insight... He was perpetually learning, reading, growing. Great writing never failed to excite him, no matter how many AP essays he read or how many times he had taught A Streetcar Named Desire. When he entered a class, it was like a weather event: everything changed."
In recent years, he was fortunate to have his son, Matthew, daughter-in-law Sarah, and two grandchildren living nearby in Maryland. He also had visits from son Paul '83, daughter-in-law Susan, and a granddaughter.
His former wives are former Taft faculty member Sabra Field (formerly Johnson) and second wife Patricia. His stepchildren from Patricia's first marriage are Chris, Tim, Marion, and Ruth.
He had recently expressed gratitude for the good fortune in his life and said that his sons were "at the center" of his mind. With the expectation of dying, he offered, "The world has been good to me."
An evergreen tree will be planted at Taft in Johnson's memory and a celebration of his life will take place at Taft on Saturday October 20, 2018, during halftime of the football game adjacent to the field.