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May 29, 2024

Tributes pour in for Richard 'Butch' Johnson, one of the greats of archery

Five-time Olympian, Richard ‘Butch’ Johnson, who inspired so many within the sport of archery, has sadly passed away at the age of 68.

Johnson competed in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), winning team gold on home soil and team bronze in Australia four years later.

When he made the team for 2008, Johnson became the first archer to compete in five Olympic Games. Making his first appearance at a Games in that 2008 team was Brady Ellison. He will match Johnson’s incredible feat when representing the USA in Paris later this year.

When Ellison won bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio, he had the opportunity to present the Order of Ikkos medal to someone who he felt had helped him achieve Olympic success. In revealing Johnson as the recipient he said, “I want to give this medal to a man who has been a huge part of my life, and especially in the archery world.

“He took me under his wing when he didn’t have to, when he was one of the best shooters in the country. He knew that I was coming up. He taught me how to set up my bows, taught me a lot of things about how to shoot under pressure.

“He is one of our greats. He has been there for my entire career, and this is for him.”

Butch Johnson played a pivotal role in the USA’s success at the Atlanta Games in 1996, when alongside Justin Huish and Rod White. Moments after Kim Bo Ram had fired three 10s for Korea in the gold medal match, Johnson stepped up, knowing the pressure was on the host nation. Johnson landed three 10s and the pendulum swung in favor of the USA.

The USA topped the podium with wins over India, Ukraine, Italy and Korea, scoring 251 in all four matches.

Huish, who also won individual gold in 1996, paid tribute to his friend on his Instagram page, writing “Butch was a fierce competitor, never wanted to share any of his trade secrets, and could care less if he embarrassed you on the field. He just wanted to beat you and win!!!

“However, there was this other side of Butch that shined brighter than any of his archery achievements did. He was one of the funniest [guys] you've ever been around. I never laughed so hard when he got rolling. He was also really caring, kind, supportive, and all things like that. The list would be way too long for this post.

“Truly one of a kind. I feel blessed to have returned back to archery at the exact time I did. His last tournament was my first tournament back at Nationals 2019. We shot the same score the first day and were paired up on the same target the last day. I got to shoot with him again which I am grateful for. Especially being his last time scoring at a tournament.”

Four years on from that team gold in Atlanta, and Johnson was back for his third Games. He, White and Vic Wunderle won bronze in Sydney. History was made when the USA defeated Russia in the bronze medal match after what was the first-ever shoot off in Olympic archery

Wunderle said of his former teammate, “Butch Johnson demonstrated the best Team USA has to offer, leaving a generational impact on our sport.

“Butch was a fierce competitor. During a 10-year period, we constantly competed against one another to win all but one of the USA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships. Even though I broke the National record in 2001, I finished a distant second place to Butch. He pushed our team to a higher level and had a natural ability to rise to the top when it mattered most.

“In one of my early matches with Butch, he corrected me on a scoring mistake where I had incorrectly noted my score a point lower than what I had earned. Instead of quietly accepting the point that may have helped him win the match, he demonstrated the sportsmanlike honesty and integrity that so often brought honor to our team and country.

“I learned to trust him to the point that I would be willing to make a bathroom run and leave him to score our arrows in a high-pressure match together knowing he would do the right thing even if it wasn’t in his favor. Butch set a great example for our sport and was respected and loved.”

Appearances in Athens and Beijing would follow. Johnson narrowly missed making the team for London in 2012.

Richard ‘Butch’ Johnson will be remembered as more than just an archery legend. He was a mentor to the likes of Ellison and Huish, inspired many to take up the sport, but he was also humble and generous with his time.

Ace compound archer, Reo Wilde, a three-time gold medalist at the World Archery Championships, wrote this tribute to ‘Butch’ Johnson, “Butch was a close friend and a big part of my archery career. He was my roommate at a lot of my international events. We became good friends and (he was) a huge mentor for me.

“We would be up talking archery for hours. He taught me a lot and gave me great advice. We also watched a ton of movies and laughed a lot. It's hard in any sport to find a guy who can exemplify all of that. He will truly be missed. Thanks for all you did for me and everyone in archery buddy.”

Away from competition, Johnson was a husband (to Teresa) and a father, working alongside his son Richard Johnson III as the pro shop manager at Hall’s Arrow in Manchester, Conn. Roxanne Ryea was a friend and a colleague who echoed the sentiments of many in the archery world when suggesting he will be sorely missed.

“Butch wasn’t only an archery legend, he was a hometown hero, friend, and selfless in the pursuit to spread his knowledge and passion for the sport he loved so dearly,” Roxanne said.

“If you were honored enough to work with or by his side you undoubtedly were blessed with irreplaceable knowledge, observational wit, a work ethic that is unmatched, and a kindness behind his smile that can’t be replaced.”

Johnson leaves behind one of the greatest legacies in archery; from thousands of archers that were inspired by his achievements to the countless masses he helped with advice, equipment, coaching, mentorship and kindness, the archery world will forever be touched by his presence and contributions.

USA Archery CEO Rod Menzer shared, “Butch built an incredible legacy; he helped so many people and was someone who had nothing but great things said about him. He’s an icon in the industry, and beyond his contributions to Team USA in massive wins and decades of dedication to competing at the highest level, he is so admired and respected by all who knew him. His legacy is one we would all hope to attain.”

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