DARKE COUNTY – Forty-four years before Clayton Murphy won a bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro, another Darke County native represented the United States at the Olympics.
Jack Johnson, who was born in Bradford in 1928, represented the United States at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. The Darke County native competed in skeet shooting at the 1972 Games, finishing ninth overall.
“He thought it was wonderful,” said Johnson’s wife, Valerie. “He enjoyed the whole experience.”
Johnson died in 1993 as a result of cancer. Valerie, his wife of 28 years, still lives in San Antonio, Texas, where the couple raised their four children.
Both Jack and Valerie competed in shooting competitions, and they met during a skeet shooting championship in Rochester, New York.
“He was a much better shooter than I was,” Valerie, a native of Delaware, said. “I wasn’t a bad shooter. He was excellent, and all of his peers thought highly of him. He was one of the best shots this country ever had.”
Jack was inducted into the National Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame in 1980 and the National Sporting Clays Association Hall of Fame in 2011. Valerie was inducted into the National Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame in 1983 and the National Sporting Clays Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
Valerie started shooting when she was 16 years old. Her husband started later in life after joining the United States Air Force.
While in the military Johnson honed his shooting skills. His dedication to shooting began as a hobby, but he soon was asked to join the Air Force’s skeet and trap shooting teams.
Johnson became one of the best shooters in the country and won the 1966 Interservice Trapshooting championship and the 1971 United States skeet shooting championship.
Johnson’s talents brought him to the 1972 Olympics where he was one of two Americans to compete in mixed skeet shooting. West Germany’s Konrad Wirnhier won the gold medal, the Soviet Union’s Yevgeny Petrov won silver and East Germany’s Michael Buchheim won bronze following a shoot-off as the top three all finished with 195 points. Johnson, who was 43 years old at the time, finished just three points behind with 192 in the competition that began Aug. 31, 1972, and concluded on Sept. 1, 1972.
The 1972 Olympics are famous for a terrorist attack carried out by eight Palestinians in which six Israeli coaches and five Israeli athletes were killed on Sept. 5, 1972. Johnson was in the Olympic Village while the attack occurred, Valerie said, while she was at home with their children.
Johnson made it safely home and continued to compete along with his wife at shooting competitions across the United States and the world. She finished third in a world championship, and he won American senior championships.
Jack remained an avid fan of the Olympics until his death in 1993. Valerie continues to watch the Games and enjoy seeing Kim Rhode win a bronze medal in skeet shooting at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.