Clay Mills "Buck" Johnson, a beloved teacher and coach who later became an award-winning sports writer, died Saturday at the age of 94. He was best known for his popular column "The Buck Stops Here'' in the Chattanooga Times.
Johnson, who graduated from Soddy-Daisy High School in 1944, was inducted into the inaugural Soddy-Daisy Hall of Fame in 2008. He served in the Navy during World War II, where his buddies called him "Soddy.''
Johnson received his bachelor's degree from the University of Chattanooga and attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee.
After the war, Johnson taught for 30 years in the Hamilton County school system and coached the same amount of time, receiving a dozen coach of the year awards in baseball, football and girls' basketball. He also served as principal at Falling Water Elementary School and was the first principal at Allen Elementary School.
Johnson worked at the Chattanooga Times for 43 years, some on a part-time basis while he was still teaching. After retiring from education in 1979, he served as sports editor for 17 years at the Times before retiring in 1996.
"Buck was the best, like my second dad," said former Times assistant sports editor Stan Crawley. "He carried me to the Times when I was 16 to answer the score phone. He gave me my sports writing career. I owe so much to him for being such a great role model. He was a special man."
Johnson won numerous awards and honors for his writing. Many of his columns received special citations, and he was twice chosen as the National AAU Media Man of the Year.
One honor was first place in the newspaper columns category at the annual Golf Writers Association of America dinner, where he received a national award for a series on pollution specific to the Chattanooga area.
Johnson covered UT football, the Atlanta Braves and 15 Masters golf tournaments, and he was voted national softball writer of the year five times. He was a lifetime member of the GWAA and the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and he served on the Heisman Trophy voting panel for 10 years and on the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting panel since 1990.
As a result of his success in softball writing, he earned the position as chief press officer for the International Softball Federation and worked the Olympic Games in Atlanta; Sydney, Australia; and Athens, Greece.
He received a lifetime pass from the BBWAA to attend games at any baseball stadium in North America, and UT awarded him a framed jersey and a lifetime press box pass.
He was inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Amateur Softball Association's National Hall of Honor.
The Times Free Press Best of Preps award for softball player of the year is named in his honor.
Johnson was a devout member of Soddy Methodist Church, where he served as a Sunday school teacher and a licensed lay speaker. He was honored with a tribute in the Tennessee Legislature by his good friend, Rep. Arnold Stulce. It said in part, "Buck Johnson exemplifies the spirit and dedication that is characteristic of a true Tennessean."