Kenny Johnson, S.E.C.

johnson_kenny.jpgA visit with Ken during the 40’h Anniversary Year of the S.E.C. was a personal opportunity difficult to match, especially for a relatively new S.E.C. candidate. The life path of this very unique man, who endured the many personal and career changes, not so uncommon during his era, is an enjoyable venture worth sharing.

Ken was born to Thomas Johnson and Glenna Shearer on May 2, 1921 in Vale, Oregon. Living in the country, he was delivered by a midwife and, unfortunately, his mother died approximately three weeks later. He grew up on the farm and recalls working the hayfields for a wage of $1.00 per day. Ken wanted to go to Alaska and work in the gold mines to pay his way to college, but after graduation from high school, his father convinced him to stay and help run the farm, promising to get him to college. Ken was “laid off” after that season.

A close friend persuaded Ken to go with him to join the Navy and to “see the world.” On April 8, 1940, Ken did just that, except his friend did not get in. He served six years in the U.S. Navy before returning to Vale. Ken migrated to Idaho and worked as a bartender and later owned two different clubs before returning to Vale. While in Payette, Idaho, Ken entered the real estate business. He obtained his pilot’s license in 1943 and started Flying Realty, which is still operable today. He actually toured and marketed cattle ranches by air!

Ken met his first wife, Doris, in San Francisco while he was in the Navy. They met on a Friday, and were married as soon as the three day waiting period was over. After almost 18 years of marriage, they were divorced and he married Clarice, whom most S.E.C. members remember the best. Unfortunately, Clarice passed away, after 34 years of marriage, on January 2, 1997. But then Ken, in true “love story fashion,” remarried Doris and they are currently enjoying life to the fullest. Ken is a past president of the Oregon Real Estate Association, being one of only two from the east side of the mountains (the other was Jim Farley). Ken credits his main strength in the business as being able to see, smell and find a deal, where others perhaps would not.

One particular deal Ken is most proud of, is leasing multi parcels of oil lands, totaling 60,000 acres, for Sinclair Oil Company in less than three weeks. The second and most impressive, was when Ken made a deal with the owner of a title company in Ontario, Oregon. Ken was allowed after hours access to the title records of nearly 400,000 acres of railroad right-of-way land, in tracts ranging from 10 to 150 acres. The land had been owned in an estate for years and the heirs were located all over the world. Ken purchased the parcels at an average of $1 per acre and sold them, sight unseen, averaging $3 per acre, to aggressive prospectors around the United States.

Ken credits the Society of Exchange Counselors for teaching him the great formulas that enabled him to expand his abilities further than he ever expected; and for providing him with his longest and most important personal and business relationships. Ken was once vice president of the S.E.C. and was asked to run against Rich Reno for president, which he decided would not be one of the more intelligent things he could do at the time.

Ken’s favorite past time is fishing, fishing, and more fishing. Ken has fished the mouth of the Columbia River for over 35 years, and in 1954 estimates that he and others (same boat) caught 385 salmon. Ken has also spent substantial time fishing around Mazatlan, and other southern resorts .

Editor’s Note: This biography was written by Leo Goseland, S.E.C. and is part of a continuing series of biographies published in the Observer recognizing the important contributions of S.E.C. members to the Society and the real estate industry.

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