Thursday, January 16, 2014

Russell Johnson 1924-2014

Russell Johnson, famous for playing the Professor on Gilligan's Island, passed away this morning of kidney failure, at his home in Bainbridge Island, Washington.  He was 89 years old.

Johnson was born in Ashley, Pennsylvania and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He flew dozens of missions as bombardier on B-24 aircraft, before his plane was shot down over the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, resulting in both his ankles being broken.  He received the Purple Heart and other medals, and was discharged as a First Lieutenant.

As an actor, Johnson played in westerns and science fiction programs, before landing the part of Professor Roy Hinkley on the TV sitcom Gilligan's Island.  The character's name was rarely mentioned.  Instead, he was addressed most of the time as "Professor".  Similarly, the captain of the Minnow, the ship stranded on the fictional island where the show was set, was addressed as "Skipper", instead of his name, Jonas Grumby (played by Alan Hale Jr.).  The last name (Summers) of the character named Mary Ann (played by Dawn Wells) and the first name (Willie) of the title character Gilligan (played by Bob Denver) were also rarely mentioned.  After Gilligan's Island, Johnson appeared as a guest star on many TV shows, continuing his acting career into the late 1990's

In reacting to Johnson's death, his co-star Dawn Wells said, "My two favorite people are now gone."  He is survived by this third wife, their daughter, a stepson, and a grandson.

Read more at USA Today, CNN, Fox News, the New York Daily News and The Wrap.

UPDATE:  From Mental Floss, 11 of the Professor's best inventions during his stay on GI.

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