University of Manitoba - University Governance - George Johnson, LL.D., June 1, 1995
George Johnson, LL.D., June 1, 1995
George Johnson
O.C., B.Sc.,M.D.(Man.); LL.D(Wpg.)

Dr. Johnson is a 1950 graduate of The University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine and former family physician, provincial cabinet minister, and Lieutenant Governor.

Born in Winnipeg in 1920 of third generation Icelandic stock, Dr. George Johnson was educated in Winnipeg public schools and the University of Manitoba. He served in the Canadian Navy from 1941 until 1945 as a navigation specialist. He was discharged as Lieutenant and in 1988 was appointed Honourary Captain for the HMSC Chippawa. He graduated from medical school in 1950 and practiced in Gimli, Manitoba until his election in 1952 to the Manitoba Legislature. He was re-elected in 1959, 1962 and 1966. He was appointed Minister of Health and Public Welfare in 1958 and retained this portfolio until his appointment as Minister of Education in 1963.

As Minister of Health he was instrumental in the implementation of the Manitoba Hospital Plan, the establishment of the Manitoba Hospital Commission, the development of Northern Health Services and the introduction of the free and universal polio vaccination program. Under his administration the Medical and Hospital Commissions were combined and became the Health Services Commission. While Minister of Education he established the Universities Grants Commission, oversaw the development of the technical vocational schools, participated in the introduction of French Immersion Programs in grades one through twelve, and saw the Council of Higher Learning developed which led to the establishment of the Universities of Winnipeg and Brandon. In 1964 he served as Chairman for the Council of Provincial Ministers of Education.

In 1969 Dr. Johnson left provincial politics and returned to the practice of Medicine in urban Winnipeg. He continued in this practice for nine years through 1978. From 1980 to 1986 he served as a Senior Medical Consultant to the government of Manitoba. One of his major contributions was Chairman of the Standing Committee on Medical Manpower. He also served on the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba.

In December 1986 Dr. Johnson was appointed as Manitoba's twentieth Lieutenant Governor and was the first Manitoban of Icelandic heritage to serve in this position.

Dr. Johnson has served the Bethel Home Foundation as a Physician, Board Member and as President and currently he is completing an article on the history of this model of personal care for senior citizens of Manitoba.

Dr. Johnson married Doris Blondal (B.H.Ec.) of Winnipeg. They have six children, four daughters and two sons (all of whom are university graduates) and seven grandchildren. The Johnson's celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on December 31, 1993.

Dr. Johnson has received many honours. He is a Certificant, Fellow, and Life Member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. He is an Honorary Life Member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Manitoba Medical Association, the Manitoba Medical Society, and the
Manitoba Teachers' Society. In 1967 the new Gimli Elementary School was designated the "George Johnson School". He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Winnipeg in 1992. In January 1994 the Government of Iceland conferred the Order of the Falcon - Commander with Star in recognition of his contribution to the Icelandic in Manitoba communities. In 1994 Dr. Johnson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.