Paige Johnson Biography from the Hall of Fame Sports Banquet, June 14, 2004.
Mention Fergus Falls High School track history and the name of 1950s star Paige Johnson quickly comes to mind.
In 1952, Johnson's senior season at Fergus High, he broke or tied the high jump records in five meets. Icing on the cake that season was winning the state high jump title. In the district track meet he tied the state record of 6 feet, 2 inches.
Prior to his sophomore year at FFHS, Johnson was in the Henning school system, competing in grade school and junior high track and basketball. Even as a freshman for the Hornets, in 1949, he lettered as a varsity high jumper.
In basketball, Johnson was one of the top scorers and rebounders on the FFHS varsity teams his junior and senior seasons. He was instrumental in leading the Otters to second place in the 1951 District 23 basketball tournament. In 1952 the Otters, led by Johnson, defeated Gilbert, defending state champion from 1951.
After high school graduation it was on to Glendale Junior College in California, with Johnson later transferring to L.A. State College. He participated in both track and basketball at Glendale and L.A. State. At Glendale Johnson set a new high jump mark of 6 feet 4-3/4 inches, breaking the old mark set in 1950. He just missed clearing 6 feet, 6 inches. Later, as an "unattached" participant, Johnson high jumped 6 feet, 6-1/2 inches.
Johnson was ranked the second-best junior college high jumper in the nation in 1953 and had a national number four ranking in 1954. Also MVP in junior college basketball at Glendale, the Glendale News Press named Johnson the most versatile athlete in the Glendale, California, area for 1954.
Paige entered the U.S. Army in June 1957. After basic training, he was named player/coach of the first USA Missile Command Company basketball team, stationed in Italy. The combined record from 1957 to 1959 was an amazing 47 wins and only 4 losses. Johnson's team also was part of President Eisenhower's "People to People" program overseas. He was an all-tournament selection during the All-U.S. Army European basketball tourney in Frankfurt, Germany, held in 1959.
As a member of the L.A. State basketball teams in 1955-57 and 1959-60, Johnson played against many Division I teams. The 1956-57 team advanced to the NCAA Division II tourney Final Four. That year they won a school record 20 games.
Because of his exceptional jumping ability, he gained the advantage over much taller players and had more than his share of tip-ins and rebounds. On defense he often guarded the opponents' top scorer.
After 1960 Johnson played on many municipal league basketball teams and was a youth basketball coach. He also competed in several senior decathlons. He retired from the Los Angeles County Probation Department in 1994, after 34 years of service.
He and his wife, Dorothy, have two sons, Troy and Kent. Paige and his wife now live in Redondo Beach, California.