JOHNSON, SIDDIE JOE
JOHNSON, SIDDIE JOE (1905–1977). Siddie Joe Johnson, author and librarian, was born in Dallas, Texas, on August 20, 1905. In her childhood her family moved to Corpus Christi, where she attended Incarnate Word Academy. In 1932 she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Texas Christian University. She returned to South Texas and taught for a year in the public schools of Refugio before beginning her career as a librarian in 1934. She worked for three years at La Retama Public Library in Corpus Christi. She left this position to attend Louisiana State University, where she earned a degree in library science in 1938. The Dallas Public Library hired her that same year, and she remained with that institution until her retirement. In Dallas she served as head of the children's department and, later, coordinator of children's services. Johnson won the first Grolier Award for outstanding contributions to children's library work from the American Librarian Association in 1954 and the Texas Librarian of the Year Award from the Texas Library Association in 1964. She also was recognized for her assistance to public school librarians in Dallas, whom she assisted in an effort to motivate children's reading and to keep the art of storytelling alive.
Johnson had a prolific writing career in conjunction with her work as a librarian. She began writing as a child and by age twelve had composed a book of poems for her mother. She wrote short stories in high school and continued her literary interests as a young adult, becoming a frequent contributor to numerous literary periodicals. She wrote book reviews for newspapers in both Corpus Christi and Dallas and served as children's book editor for the Dallas Morning News for more than thirty years. She also published several collections of poems, including Agarita Berry (1933) and Feather in My Hand (1967). Most of her published writing, however, was children's fiction. Her first book, Debby, appeared in 1940 and used the Texas of her youth for its setting. Her subsequent juvenile books included New Town in Texas (1942), set in Denison; Texas, the Land of the Tejas (1943); Cathy (1945); and Month of Christmases (1952), which won the Texas Institute of Letters award for the best juvenile book of the year. Her 1955 book, Cat Hotel, told the story of a woman in East Dallas who kept felines for vacationing families.
After retiring from the Dallas Public Library in 1965, Johnson continued her newspaper writing and taught children's literature and creative writing at Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas, Texas Woman's University, and the University of Arizona. She maintained her membership in numerous organizations, including the American Library Association, the Poetry Society of Texas (from which she won several awards early in her career), and the Texas Library Association, which established an award for children's literature in her name in 1976. In the mid-1970s she left Dallas and returned to Corpus Christi. She died there on July 27, 1977, and was survived by a brother. After her funeral at All Saints Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, she was buried in that city.
Lee Ash, ed., A Biographical Directory of Librarians in the United States and Canada (Chicago: American Library Association, 1970). Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale Research, 1962-). Dallas Morning News, July 29, 1977. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.