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Malcolm Johnson Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2003-24

Scope and Contents

Manuscripts, proofs, campaign materials, newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, awards, speeches, reviews, and related materials of Malcolm Johnson, former editor of the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, and a former Associated Press correspondent in Tallahassee, Florida. This collection consists primarily of election materials, correspondence, and papers regarding Johnson's Red, White and Bluebloods in Frontier Florida.

The collection includes correspondence with: Alvah H. Chapman, Jr.; J. Montgomery Curtis; Fred O. Dickinson; Leon Dure; Don Fuqua; Lee Hills; Spessard L. Holland; Estes Kefauver; John S. Knight; Payne H. Midyette; Richard Nixon; Violet Pierce; B. A. Ross (Mr. & Mrs.); Roy W. Russell; Richard Stone; Stanley L. Tait; John M. Tapers; Fuller Warren and Broward Williams.

Subjects and persons mentioned in the collection include: Farris Bryant, LeRoy Collins, John E. Evans, Capital Press Club of Florida, E. V. Fisher, J. Edwin Larson, John McCarty, the Democratic Party, Jefferson County, Robert Floyd, Bill C. Pearce, judges, Putnam County, the Rotary Club of Tallahassee, academic freedom, Boy Scouts, relocation of the Capitol, cemeteries, flood control, Church and State, civil rights, collective bargaining, communism, contests, Cross-Florida Barge Canal, the Declaration of Independence, the Democratic Convention, democrats, Downtown Idea Exchange, drugs, election campaigns, the electoral college, engineers, Equal Rights Amendment, FSNE, fairgrounds, family planning, Florida Civil War Centennial Commission, federal judges, Florida Heritage Foundation, Florida State University, fluoridation, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Press, G. O. P. Convention, governors, Historic American Buildings Survey, historic buildings, historical markers, Florida history, Tallahassee, Legislators, impeachment, integration, Interstate I-10, judicial fitness, land and water management, libraries, Manion Forum, Florida Geological Survey, the Intercoastal waterway, Miami newspapers, Monticello, NAACP, blacks, Newspaper Guild, nuclear testing, obscenity, oil, ombudsman, Parole Commission, phosphates, Plant Dig, Florida population, prison reform, prisons, Probation and Parole Commission, Pulitzer Prize, railroads, and schools.

Collection also includes MSS 0-148, MSS 77-2, MSS 77-13 MSS 77-13a, and MSS 84-06

Online Copies Available

Select materials from the Malcolm Johnson Collection have been digitized and are available through the FSU Digital Library.


  • Created: 1824-1984, n.d.
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1940-1978

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright holder for this collection is Florida State University. All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

Malcolm Johnson was born on February 13, 1913 in Wardner, Idaho. At the age of three Johnson's family moved to Youngstown, Alberta. In 1925, hoping to take advantage of the economic boom in Florida, Johnson's father moved his family to Jacksonville, Florida. In 1936, Johnson graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He studied pre-med until his junior year when he switched to journalism, because he later remarked, it seemed journalism students were having "a lot more fun." Immediately after graduation he briefly worked for the Jacksonville Journal and various other Florida newspapers.

Nineteen thirty-seven saw many changes in Johnson's life. In that year he married Dorothy Burt, a childhood friend from Jacksonville and went to work for the Tallahassee Democrat as the City Editor. In 1940 Johnson left the newspaper to work for the Associated Press in its Tallahassee Capitol Bureau. He remained there fourteen years, the last eleven of which he was Bureau Chief. In 1954 Johnson returned to the Tallahassee Democrat and became its Editor.

Apart from his editorials, Johnson wrote numerous columns during his twenty-three years as Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, including "Under the Dome" and "Campaign Comment." However, he is best remembered for his weekly column "I Declare." "I Declare" ran five days a week in the Tallahassee Democrat from 1965 to 1978 and at its height was syndicated in twenty-five Florida newspapers.

Johnson's columns and editorials reflected his opinion on diverse issues. For instance, Johnson felt strongly about the preservation of nature and history in the "Big Bend" area, a name he coined for use in the Tallahassee Democrat. With others he created the Upsy Daisy Plant Uplift Society that helped rescue plants that would have otherwise been destroyed by road and building construction. Johnson often wrote about local history and lore in his columns and published his own history of frontier Florida, Red, White, and Bluebloods in Frontier Florida, in 1976. He and his wife were also active in the Tallahassee Historical Society.

However, Johnson was a pragmatist and despite his work to preserve aspects of Tallahassee's natural and historic character, he realized that if Tallahassee was to grow certain improvements and additions needed to be made. In this regard he championed the expansion of the airport and the construction of a new library and hospital. He was one of the voices urging the building of a civic center and the development of a research park, the result of which became Innovation Park. Johnson also set up a group through the Tallahassee Democrat known as Funders Inc., which sent needy kids to summer camp.

Johnson's tenure at the Tallahassee Democrat was not without controversy. His opinions could often be polarizing. He did not see the role of editor as an unbiased mediator. As he explained in one of his columns, "There is no pretense of being unbiased or sitting in the middle of the road. We agree with the fellow who said he never saw much there except a yellow streak and once in a while a dead skunk or possum."

Johnson retired from the Tallahassee Democrat in January of 1978. In 1984 he published I Declare, a collection of essays encapsulating his twenty-three years at the Tallahassee Democrat. Johnson died December 6, 1989.


37.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The bulk of the Malcolm Johnson Collection documents Johnson's journalistic career from his time with the Associated Press from 1940-1954 to his editorship of the Tallahassee Democrat from 1954-1970. The collection includes correspondence, subject and personality files, clippings of Johnson's columns and editorials, photographs, speeches written by Johnson, memorabilia, and various published materials collected by Johnson over his career. In addition, there are materials related to the writing and publication of Johnson's books I Declare and Red, White and Bluebloods in Frontier Florida, such as research materials, photographs, drafts and proofs.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Malcolm B. Johnson

Existence and Location of Originals

Portions of collection available online?: No

Related Collections

Tallahassee Democrat Photographs, 1940-1974. State Archives of Florida. RG 900000, M82-77. Photographs of ceremonies, political events, and news-room activities, documenting projects and news stories that Malcom B. Johnson covered while an Associated Press reporter and editor for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Processing Information

Processing of this collection was partially funded by a National Historical and Publications Records Commission grant. The Malcolm Johnson Collection consists of six separate gifts given by Johnson over a period of years. To maintain the original order of these donations, each donation retains its assigned manuscript number but for ease of access, all have been combined into one finding aid.

Malcolm Johnson Collection
Chad Underwood and Julie Uhland
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US