The man who played the Professor on the TV show Gilligan’s Island from 1964 to 1967 died of kidney failure early this morning, January 16, at the age of 89. Russell Johnson, a long-time Bainbridge Islander, was best known for his role as the smartypants professor who nevertheless couldn’t fix the boat that had stranded him and his shipmates on an island. But Johnson had a long TV and film career that both preceded and followed the show.
Before turning to acting, Johnson served in the Air Force during World War II. His plane was shot down in the Philippines in March of 1945. He broke both his ankles in the crash but survived and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was also awarded numerous other medals for his service including the Air Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.
His film and TV career started in 1952 and included a number of westerns and sci-fi creature features. He appeared in many shows including The Adventures of Superman and The Twilight Zone and was a regular on Black Saddle. Although his part was uncredited, he appeared in the Robert Redford movie Three Days of the Condor.
Johnson had two children. One of them, David, a son, died of AIDS in 1994. Russell dove into the fight to raise funds for AIDS research after his son was diagnosed.
Johnson was the longest living male survivor of Gilligan’s Island. Castmates Tina Louise (Ginger) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) are in their 70s. The Professor is survived as well by his wife Constance and his daughter Kim.