Congressman Sam Johnson on the passing of wife, Shirley Melton Johnson

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Washington, December 3, 2015 | comments

Today U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson sorrowfully released the following statement:

“It is with a broken heart that I announce the passing of the love of my life and my best friend, Shirley. 

“Our extended Johnson family feels heartbroken, and we appreciate your prayers during this very difficult time as we mourn the loss of a devoted wife, selfless mother, loving grandmother, and dutiful patriot.

“Shirley and I truly shared a love story for the ages.  She patiently and prayerfully waited for me to return home after nearly seven long years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam.  I can never thank her enough for her service and sacrifice.

“Beloved by many, we take comfort knowing that she’s resting in the arms of her Lord and Savior.”

More details will be forthcoming as they become available. A full bio of Shirley Melton Johnson, 85, follows. 

Shirley Melton Johnson 

Shirley Melton Johnson, wife of Congressman Sam Johnson, was born in Brady, Texas and moved to Dallas at the age of five.  After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School, she attended Hockaday Junior College before entering Southern Methodist University (SMU).  At SMU, Shirley majored in interior design and pledged the Delta Gamma sorority.  Sam and Shirley were married in 1950, during their senior year at SMU.

Immediately after graduation, Sam joined the Air Force.  During their 29 years with the Air Force, they moved over 30 times within the United States and abroad.  In 1966, Sam was shot down over North Vietnam, where he spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war.  Shirley joined other wives and families of POWs to enlist help from the Air Force and Congress.  She traveled to Washington to publicize the plight of the POWs and to ensure they were afforded basic rights as stated in the Geneva Convention.

During Sam's imprisonment, Shirley was involved with many POW family support groups and programs.  In 1970, she helped found the League of Families of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Southeast Asia. She served as a member of the league's first Board of Directors and as the North Texas State coordinator.  In 1971, Shirley helped establish Dallas Cares, a local group that assisted wives and families in the Dallas area with petitions, speeches, and other public events.

Soon after his return from Vietnam, Sam became Wing Commander at Homestead Air Force Base.  Along with Sam's new title, Shirley also acquired new responsibilities.  While at Homestead, she served as honorary president and advisor to the following: Officers' Wives Club, NCO Wives Club, Airmen Wives Club, the Red Cross chapter at the base, and the Hospital Auxiliary.

When Sam retired from the Air Force in 1979, he and Shirley started a home building company in Plano.  Their lives turned again to politics in 1984 when Sam was elected to the Texas State House of Representatives where he served for seven years.  He was elected to the United States Congress in May of 1991. 

Residents of Plano, the Johnsons are members of the First United Methodist Church in Plano.  They have three children and ten grandchildren. 

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