U of C economist, Johnson, dies at 86

By Carolina Bolado

D. Gale Johnson, 1916-2003

D. Gale Johnson, an expert in agricultural economics and a former chair of the department of economics in the University, died of pneumonia related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig?s disease, Sunday, April 13 in Amherst, Massachusetts. He was 86.

Johnson?s interest in agriculture started as a young boy on his parents? Iowa farm. He began studying economics at Iowa State College under Theodore Schultz, who went on to win a Nobel Prize. After earning a Ph.D. at Iowa State in 1944, Johnson followed his mentor to the University of Chicago, where he remained for the next 50 years.

Johnson researched American agriculture extensively, showing that the livelihood of farm families depends not on price hikes for farm products but on market functions. He demonstrated that farm incomes could rise in spite of falling crop prices because of changes in labor costs and productivity.

A frequent adviser to the World Bank, Johnson also served on two presidential commissions during the Kennedy administration.

In addition to domestic agriculture, Johnson also became an expert on Soviet, Chinese, and Taiwanese agricultural policies. His work examined the effect of the Chinese government?s birth control policies and proposed instead that more social security and ending the practice of allocating land according to family size would better limit population growth.

Johnson served as dean of the social sciences division from 1960 to 1970, and as chairman of the department of economics from 1971 to 1975 and again from 1980 to 1984. He also served as vice president and dean of faculties in 1975 and as provost from 1975 to 1980.

In 1985, Johnson was instrumental in founding the Korean Studies Program, the same year that he became director of the economics program in the College, a position he held until 2002.

Johnson was the recipient of the 1998 Norman Maclean Faculty award and of the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2000.

?Over the past 50 years, there has been no greater citizen of the University on all fronts: scholar, teacher, administrator, member of the Hyde Park community,? said former University president Hugo Sonnenschein.

Johnson was married to Helen Wallace, a childhood friend from his hometown of Vinton, Iowa, from 1938 until her death in 1990. He is survived by their daughter, Kay Ann of Amherst, Massachusetts, their son, David, of Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania, and four grandchildren. Private services were held in Amherst. A memorial at the University is being planned.