Hootie Johnson, a South Carolina banker who, as chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, oversaw the Masters Tournament for eight years and adamantly resisted efforts to have girls admitted as members of the unique membership, as he placed it, “on the point of a bayonet,” died July 14. He was once 86.
Augusta National announced his dying, however equipped no additional details. He had a historical past of heart illnesses.
Mr. Johnson rose from the presidency of a small-town bank in Greenwood, S.C., to transform a top government with Bank of The Usa, however he used to be far better identified for his leadership at Augusta Nationwide, the place he was once chairman from 1998 to 2006, and guardian of its standards.
He was FOUR whilst he attended his first Masters at Augusta National in 1935, the second one yr the match used to be held. The Masters is golf’s only leading match that takes place every year at the similar path.
To golfers, Augusta National is understood as one in every of the arena’s most lovely and difficult courses, set amid tall pine bushes, colourful azaleas and stone bridges crossing Rae’s Creek. The Masters is known for its time-commemorated customs, together with the awarding of a green jacket to once a year’s champion.
Hootie Johnson supplying the victor’s green jacket to Tiger Woods at the 2002 Masters Match at Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership. (Shaun Best Possible/Reuters)
After Tiger Woods and different younger golfers began to make mainly low scores within the Masters within the overdue nineteen nineties, Mr. Johnson made up our minds to make stronger the path. the space from tee to cup was increased on many holes, and the grassy rough alongside the fairways was once allowed to develop, placing a premium on accurate shots.
Mr. Johnson additionally recommended that former Masters champions prior the age of SIXTY FIVE not take part within the tournament. He rescinded the order but not sooner than angering many older golfers and their lovers.
He peeled away a few of the secrecy of the Masters by allowing television protection of all 18 holes on the event’s ultimate day. But, beneath Mr. Johnson’s steerage, the Masters persevered to face out as a pristine wearing jewel and an unapologetic stronghold of custom.
Among the ones traditions used to be an extended-standing rule that club of Augusta National was restricted simplest to men. At any given time, there are approximately 300 members of the non-public, invitation-handiest membership in Augusta, Ga., along the South Carolina border. Individuals come with lots of the country’s titans of trade and finance, in addition as distinguished figures in politics and sports activities.
In 2002, Martha Burk, then chairwoman of the Washington-based totally Nationwide Council Of Girls’s Businesses, sought a gathering with Mr. Johnson to talk about admitting girls as participants of Augusta Nationwide. His reaction used to be hardly conciliatory.
“we will be able to now not be bullied, threatened, or intimidated,” he stated in a statement. “There could come an afternoon while women shall be invited to enroll in our club, but that timetable will be ours, and not on the point of a bayonet.”
Burk led demonstrations on the club, which brought about Mr. Johnson and the club’s vintage protect to dig in their heels.
“This factor is set energy and focused power which particularly excludes women,” Burk told The Washington Post in 2003. “Corporate leaders claim that they do not discriminate of their companies. But, by way of their membership at Augusta, they’re legitimizing sex discrimination on the absolute best ranges.”
Mr. Johnson’s truculence gave the impression out of character to a couple. He were an recommend of civil rights because the 1960s, had helped desegregate South Carolina’s schools and known as for the Accomplice flag to be removed from the state capitol. At Augusta National, he helped recruit extra African American members.
As The public highlight grew warmer, Mr. Johnson persevered to battle efforts to open the club’s doors to ladies.
“We’re a personal club,” he said. “we will be able to prevail as a result of we’re right.”
Burk charged that Mr. Johnson lived in “white-male, privileged bubble,” and announced efforts to boycott Masters Event sponsors and the corporations run through membership individuals. Mr. Johnson countered via getting rid of all promoting from the match’s declares in 2003 in 2004.
“Our private membership does not discriminate,” he mentioned. “We resent it greatly whilst that accusation is made towards us.”
“What else could you name it?” Burk retorted.
Whether Or Not in step with history or not, Mr. Johnson made it transparent that he and his club wouldn’t be swayed by means of public opinion.
“If I drop useless at the moment, I promise our place is not going to amendment on this factor,” he said in 2003. “It’s no longer my issue by myself.”
The protests diminished through the years, and the Masters Event persisted with out shedding any of its luster. When Mr. Johnson stepped down as chairman in 2006, women have been nonetheless no longer allowed to be members of Augusta Nationwide.
After All, in 2012, the club announced that it had admitted its first feminine contributors: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.
“That Is superb information for Augusta National Golf Club,” Mr. Johnson mentioned in an announcement, “and i could not be extra happy.”
William Woodward Johnson used to be born Feb. SIXTEEN, 1931, in Augusta. His father, a banking executive, moved the circle of relatives to Greenwood, S.C., a number of years later.
Mr. Johnson, who used to be referred to as Hootie from adolescence, attended the University of South Carolina on a football scholarship and graduated in 1953.
He went to paintings at his family’s financial institution, at first referred to as the Financial Institution of Greenwood, and served one term within the South Carolina legislature in the past due 1950s.
After changing into financial institution president in 1965, he extended to other towns in South Carolina and oversaw a sequence of mergers that in the long run led to the formation of the Charlotte-based Financial Institution of America, which at one time used to be the rustic’s largest bank. Mr. Johnson was once chairman of its company govt committee.
Survivors include his wife of SIXTY FIVE years, the previous Pierrine Baker of Columbia, S.C.; 4 daughters; 10 grandchildren; and various great-grandchildren.
“Mr. Johnson was once a great deal an old-faculty Southerner,” considered one of his buddies, civil rights leader and previous Atlanta mayor Andrew Younger told the Related Press in 2006. “He used to be able to grow, he used to be able to amendment, however he wasn’t going to be pushed …
“Let’s provide him credit for all of the just right he did, and never attempt to blame him as a result of he wasn’t in a position to see into the 21st century.”
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