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Clarence "Kelly" Johnson

Clarence Kelly Johnson

1910-1990

Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on February 27, 1910. He became one of the world's greatest aeronautical geniuses, playing a leading role in the design of more than 40 of the most advanced aircraft in the world.

Johnson was educated at the University of Michigan where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1932 and his Master of Science in aeronautical engineering in 1933. After receiving his degree from the University of Michigan, Johnson joined the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.
Throughout Johnson's career at Lockheed, he created innovative concepts in aircraft design. Johnson helped design the Orion 9-D, the Electra, the Hudson bomber, the P-38 Lightning, the Model 18 Lone Star, the B-37 Ventura, PV-1 bombers, and the Constellation. He also created the first jet fighter for the United States, the P-80 Shooting Star.

Johnson was also responsible for the PV-2 Neptune, the "Constitution," the X-7 Ramjet, the T-33, the TV-2, and the F-94 Starfire interceptor. He received the Collier Trophy for the F-104 Starfighter. He also created the C-130 Hercules, the U-2 and the C-140 Jetstar. He helped develop the Agenda D satellite, the YF-12A interceptor and again received the Collier Trophy for the SR-71 Blackbird.

Johnson organized the "Skunk Works" at Lockheed where a small unit of technical and production specialists performed advanced works on new aircraft design. He was a senior vice president of Lockheed, served on the Lockheed Board of Directors and has received world-wide recognition for his contributions to aeronautical science.

Johnson was enshrined on October 14, 1988 for his outstanding and innovative contributions to the science of aircraft design.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program