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Johnson joined ABC News in 1968 as a documentary producer, director and writer, winning distinction for his documentaries Welfare Game and Strangers in Their Own Land: The Puerto Ricans. He was one of the first African American filmmakers in the prestigious Directors Guild of America. Johnson then became a network correspondent and covered such stories as the Attica prison uprising.
In 1972, Johnson began a long run at WABC. In the late 1980s, he served as a rotating anchor of the 6 p.m. newscast in the aftermath of Roger Grimsby's firing with Kaity Tong and Bill Beutel. Johnson, who had also anchored the station's weekend newscasts and served as a reporter prior to this, eventually returned to reporting as senior correspondent after WABC made the decision to have Beutel anchor the 6 p.m. newscast by himself. During his years as senior correspondent, Johnson covered the first Gulf war. He also covered the war in Bosnia and was one of the first reporters landing with American troops in Somalia. One of Johnson's last assignments at WABC was his reporting at the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1994-95.
While the trial was still going on, Johnson left WABC in March 1995 and became co-anchor of WCBS' 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts in June of that same year. Johnson remained at the station until October 1996 when, along with several other notable personalities, he was fired. The timing of the firings was peculiar as Johnson and co-anchor Michele Marsh had offered a preview of the upcoming 11pm newscast at the end of the 6 pm news, with the firings occurring in the interim four and a half hours.
Johnson was not out of work for long, as he and his WCBS co-anchor Michele Marsh were hired by WNBC to anchor the station's new noon newscast. After a year, however, Johnson left WNBC due to personal reasons and never returned to TV.
Johnson was to resurface again with the publication of his well-received autobiography Only Son: A Memoir (Warner Books) in 2002. A former associate professor of art at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and at Indiana University before his broadcast career, Johnson then resumed his painting career. His paintings, which have been shown in Europe and the United States, were featured at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in Manhattan's art centers: SoHo and Chelsea.