Ray Lee Johnson

Ray Lee Johnson, Medford Sports Hall of FameRay Johnson? “Oh yes, that’s the kid that used to ‘run’ to school from way up Wagner Creek.” And run he did. Dubbed “Racin’ Ray of Wagner Gap”.  At an early age, due to the death of this father, he came to live with his grandparents, early-day pioneers Frank and Nellie Smith. Ray’s favorite Aunt Polly tells me. “Actually, Ray would drive the car to Talent, then hitch a ride on into Medford. Mainly to conserve gas… his grandparents didn’t know about this… he did walk the twelve miles to school many times through… and he would get up at 4:00 am to work before school.”

Bill Bowerman, said of Ray, “Ran down his first Jack Rabbit to see if he was fat enough to eat.” This was when he was running on Bowman’s High school team while still in junior high. As a sophomore Ray won the State 440 at 50.8, broke the state 440 record as a junior – 49.5, and ran the fastest 440 in the nation for the decade 1940-1950: in 1941 a sizzling 47.8. He played on the Medford Bowman-Coached football team in 1938 -39 until Bill kicked him off the team his senior year so wouldn’t hurt himself and lose a sure scholarship in track. Ray says of Bill Bowerman “I respect and love that man! You may quote me, “Ray Served as a Medford High School Student Body President is senior year, and you can be sure the students all respected and loved him.”

While running for the University of Southern California, Ray broke the USA-UCLA record in 1942. He served with the US Army from 1943-1946 and upon his retirement from Pacific Press, he was acknowledged as Outstanding Electrical Engineer on the Pacific Coast.