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Thursday, April 17, 2014

JOHNSON, Wheatley Marshall, 92, died peacefully in his sleep on February 20. Johnson, whom everyone knew as Marshall, was best known as the foremost authority on Virginia's prep sports history, a well-deserved reputation he developed during his 34-year career with The Associated Press, in Richmond, and well beyond his retirement in 1983. Using newspapers and microfilm at the State Library, Johnson researched the history of state football and basketball programs back to nearly 1900. He was among the charter members of the media inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and was also in the charter class of media enshrined in the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. The Virginia High School League, which gave Johnson its Distinguished Service Award in 1984, still bestows the Marshall Johnson Sportsmanship Award to a team in each of the VHSL's six classifications during its state basketball tournament. The Virginia High School Coaches Association also bestows the Marshall Johnson Media Award to recognize a media member's commitment to high school sports at its banquet each summer. Johnson was a decorated veteran of World War II, having flown 55 combat missions as a navigator who reached the rank of captain, and earned several commendations, among them the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star. A native of Manassas, he graduated from Washington & Lee in 1942 and worked at newspapers in Manassas and Lynchburg before joining the AP in 1949. In retirement, Johnson was an avid rose and gardenia gardener, and loved to get together with friends from the sports and newspaper world and share, in his booming voice and with an uncommon memory, stories about the past. He was devoted to Shirley Wright Johnson, his wife of 67 years, who died in November 2012. Johnson is survived by his son, Michael and wife, Jayne, of Fairfield Glade, Tenn.; his daughter, Patricia Edwards of Glen Allen; and grandchildren, Michael Johnson Jr. and his wife, Kandy, of Glen Allen, Stefanie Johnson Cooley and her husband, Jarrod, of Kingsport, Tenn., Robyn Johnson of Yakima, Wash,; and two great-grandchildren. The family will receive visitors from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Bliley's Funeral Home Staples Mill Chapel on Saturday, February 23. His funeral service is scheduled for noon on Sunday, February 24, at the same location. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to VHSL Foundation Inc., 1642 State Farm Blvd., Charlottesville, Va. 22911.

This obituary was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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Published online on 2/22/2013 courtesy of Richmond Times-Dispatch.