Actor Russell Johnson, most notably known worldwide as Professor Roy Hinkley aka the “Professor,” from Gilligan’s Island, passed away in his Bainbridge, Washington state home at the age of 89.
Born November 10, 1935, in Ashley, Pennsylvannia, David Russell Johnson, struggled in his early childhood through school and was held back a year, unlike his famous character, but later redeemed himself through hard work and determination making the National Honor Society while in high school.
Enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he became an aviation cadet rising to the rank of first lieutenant as a bombardier on B-24’s flying 44 combat missions over the Netherlands, East Indies and the Philippines.
Mr. Johnson’s decorations included the Bronze Star, Air Medal. Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Medal with three service stars, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, the World War II Victory Medal with the Honorable Service button and a Purple Heart for when he was shot down and wounded during a bombing run over Japanese targets in the Philippines.
After service twelve years in the Army Air Corps, later the Air Force as an officer and reservist, Mr. Johnson left the service for the bright lights of Hollywood working in several television shows including as a gangster in the Runaway Robot episode of Superman.
Early noted features included It Came From Outer Space, This Island Earth, The Space Children (as an abusive father) and two films for Roger Corman - Rock All Night and Attack of the Crab Monsters where he made $175.00 for one week (Roger shot the film in ten days) for his role as the heroic, Hank Chapman.
Mr. Johnson was also one of the rare actors to have appeared in television in two episodes of The Twilight Zone (Back Home and Execution); The Outer Limits (Specimen: Unknown); The Invaders (The Trial), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Vicious Circle) and Boris Karloff’s Thriller; the Hungry Glass with William Shatner.
But it was in 1964 when he auditioned for the Professor role in Gilligan’s Island that he’d finally hit big.
The show ran for three years (they never did get off that island!) two made-for-TV movies and two Saturday morning cartoon series.
After the series ended, Mr. Johnson kept active in television and films that included a brief appearance in Three Days of the Condor, Horror At 37,000 Feet, Gunsmoke, The Ghost of Flight 401, MacGuyver and was the narrator for the Robotech II: The Sentinels animated series.
The Starburst family sends our heartfelt thoughts to a gentleman actor and a class act.