Former banker, Masters leader, USC grad Hootie Johnson dead at 86


USC alumnus, banker, and former Augusta Nationals chairman William Woodward “Hootie” Johnson has passed away.

Johnson was 86 years old. He was born in Augusta, GA on Feb. 16, 1931.

Johnson, a University of South Carolina alum and football player, was a former Bank of America executive and the chairman at Augusta National from 1998 to 2006.

He was also a chairman of the executive committee at Bank of America and was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.

Kim Wilkerson, SC State Market president, released a statement, saying, “We have lost a great visionary and friend. Mr. Johnson’s legacy of leadership, particularly in responsible growth, diversity, and inclusion, can be seen in the Bank of America values we live today. We will always be thankful for the decades of service he gave to our company and the communities we serve.”

During his time as the chairman of Augusta National, he was thrust into the spotlight after a terse letter was sent to Martha Burk, who was then leading the National Council of Women’s Organization. Burk asked for women to be admitted to members of the exclusive, men’s only club.

Aside from the 2002 controversy, Johnson oversaw improvements of Augusta National’s course and helped that navigate a national television deal to broadcast the Masters.

Since 2006, Johnson was the “Chairman Emeritus” of Augusta National.

Current Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne released a statement Johnson’s death, saying:

Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are today mourning the loss of William Woodward “Hootie” Johnson, our beloved Chairman Emeritus. Hootie passed away this morning at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional service to our Club, our Tournament and the game of golf.

Hootie was named Chairman of Augusta National on May 1, 1998. During his eight-year tenure, we always admired his genuine and unrelenting respect for the traditions and vision of the Club and Tournament established by our Founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.

He boldly directed numerous course improvements to ensure that Augusta National would always represent the very finest test of golf. Simultaneously, Hootie expanded television coverage of the Masters, improved qualification standards for invitation to the Tournament and reopened the series badge waiting list for the first time in more than 20 years. Many of these measures brought more people than ever closer to the Masters and inspired us to continue exploring ways to welcome people all over the world to the Tournament and the game of golf.

Hootie stepped down as Chairman on May 5, 2006, leaving both Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament in exceptional form. In the years that followed, Hootie was a frequent visitor here, enjoying the rewards of retirement with his wife Pierrine, his four daughters, his sons-in-law and 10 grandchildren, to say nothing of the many friends he made through a rewarding and honorable life.

At all times, Hootie selflessly served as my personal mentor on matters here at Augusta National and the Masters, as well as in business and life. He impressed upon me his obsession for constant improvement and a love for Augusta National that will forever remain unmatched. As the current Chairman, I owe an immeasurable debt to Hootie Johnson, and I will thank him every day for what he has meant to me personally as well as to the legacy of Augusta National and the Masters.

In the days ahead, we will privately honor the memory of Hootie Johnson, stand with his beautiful family and celebrate his extraordinary life.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also released a statement via Twitter.

Hootie Johnson’s legacy of leadership and public service impacted the lives and careers many more than we will ever possibly know.

— Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) July 14, 2017

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