Skip to main content

Robert Johnson papers

Identifier: MSS-2284

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials related Naval history, such as manuscripts, research notes, and photographs.


  • circa 1950-2008

Biographical / Historical

Johnson was born on February 3, 1923, in Marshfield, Oregon, to Franz Oscar Johnson, a farmer, and his wife, Agnes Sandquist. Johnson enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1941 and served until 1946 on the Haida (WPG-45). After his wartime service at sea as a quartermaster, he attended the Oregon State Agricultural College from 1946 to 1948, then transferred to the University of Oregon, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree and was elected Phi Beta Kappa in 1951. From 1951–1952, he served again on active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserve, rising to Petty Officer First Class. On release from active duty, Johnson went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in 1953. Going on for further graduate work, he attended the Claremont Graduate School, where he earned his PhD in 1956 with a thesis titled "United States Naval Forces on Pacific Station, 1818–1923". On December 19, 1959, he married Vivian Ellis.

Immediately on completion of his doctoral work in 1956, the University of Alabama appointed him assistant professor in the faculty of history. He was promoted to associate professor in 1963, and to professor of history in 1967. He retired in 1993 after serving as interim chairman of the history department during a critical time of transition for the history department. A member of the Democratic Party, he was also a member of the American Historical Association, Society for Nautical Research, World Ship Society, Naval Historical Foundation, and the United States Naval Institute. He received numerous awards for his publications on naval history, including his book, Guardians of the Sea, which won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize in Naval History from the New York Council of the Navy League of the United States, the North American Society for Oceanic History's John Lyman Book Award for the best book in U.S. naval history, and the U.S. Naval Institute's Special Award of Merit.

Johnson died in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on January 28, 2008.

information found on


9 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Materials related to naval history, including manuscripts, research notes, and photographs

Physical Location

These materials are stored at our off-site Archival Facility (AF) and may require up to two business days for retrieval and delivery for use in our Hoole Library reading room. Please email or call 205-348-0500 for more information.




To provide faster access to our materials, this finding aid was published without formal and final review. Email us at if you find mistakes or have suggestions to make this finding aid more useful for your research.
Guide to the Robert Johnson papers
April 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266