Senator Tim Johnson speaking on the Senate Floor

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Senator Tim Johnson with wife Barbara Johnson at the 2004 Spouses Dinner

Barbara Johnson's Biography

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Biography of
Senator Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson's roots run deep in the plains of South Dakota. A fourth-generation South Dakotan, Tim was born in Canton to Van and Ruth Johnson. His great-grandfather homesteaded near Centerville, so farming and ranching concerns are second nature to Tim.

The son of a college professor and a homemaker, Tim, along with his brother, Tom, and sister, Julie, learned early on the value of a good education and the necessity of hard work.

Tim attended school in Canton, Flandreau, and Vermillion, where he graduated from high school in 1965. He then attended the University of South Dakota (USD), graduating with Phi Beta Kappa academic honors. Tim went on to earn both a master's degree in Public Administration and a law degree from the University of South Dakota.

During his undergraduate years at USD, Tim met Barbara Brooks of Sioux Falls, whom he married shortly after graduating. Balancing family needs with academic and work pressures is something Barbara and Tim came to know well during their early years. After Tim completed his graduate studies at USD, he worked as a budget analyst for the Michigan State Senate Appropriations Committee while Barbara completed her master's degree in social work. It was during this time that their first child, Brooks, was born.

Tim began a private law practice in Vermillion in 1975, the same year their second child, Brendan, was born. Just three years after starting his own law practice, Tim was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 1978 and then reelected in 1980. Their daughter, Kelsey, was born during his second term in the state House. Though Tim and Barbara were both actively involved in raising their children, Barbara put her master's degree to work and became very active in children's issues and services.

After serving in the state House for four years, Tim ran for the state Senate and was elected in 1982 and 1984. During his years in the South Dakota Legislature, Tim earned a reputation as a hardworking, effective author of sound fiscal and social policy. His achievements did not go unnoticed. In 1979, the Vermillion Jaycees presented him with the "Outstanding Citizen Award." In 1983, he was the first recipient of the "Billie Sutton Award for Legislative Achievement" presented by the South Dakota Democratic Party.

After eight years in the state legislature, Tim decided to take his commitment to creating positive change for South Dakotans to Washington. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 with nearly 60 percent of the vote. During his first term in Congress, he was responsible for passing more legislation than any of the other 50 first-term members. And, he received national awards by the National Farmers Union, Disabled American Veterans, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Within the House Democratic leadership organization, Tim served as Regional Deputy Whip from 1991-94. Tim served as South Dakota's congressman for five terms before being elected to the Senate on November 5, 1996.

Tim has distinguished himself as South Dakota's senior Senator. He serves on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

In 2004, Democratic Leader Senator Harry Reid observed that he was naming Tim to be the Vice Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee because of his confidence in Senator Johnson's integrity and sense of fairness.

In February of 2006, he was named to the Air Force Academy’s a member of the prestigious Board of Visitors. He is one of three members of the Senate to be appointed to this post by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), President pro tempore of the Senate and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Today, Tim is an active member of numerous policy-based organizations and in his own community.

Tim and Barbara still have their home in Vermillion. Their oldest son, Brooks, is in the U.S. Army having served in Bosnia, Kosovo, South Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In May 2004, Brooks married Naida Snipas Johnson of Boston, Massachusetts. Brooks remains on active duty stateside. Their second eldest son Brendan worked as an assistant prosecutor for Minnehaha County and currently practices law in Sioux Falls. Their daughter, Kelsey, a 2004 graduate of the University of South Dakota, is now working in public service in Washington, DC.

In October 2003, Tim and Barbara proudly announced the birth of their first grandchild, Sutton Timothy James Johnson to their second eldest son, Brendan, and his wife, Dr. Jana Beddow Johnson of Sioux Falls. In 2005, the Johnson family grew again, with two new grandsons joining the ranks. In November 2005, Brooks and Naida welcomed their first son, Arius Timothy Johnson, or Ari for short. Barely two weeks later, Brendan and Jana announced the birth of their second son, Cooper Jay Johnson.

In 2004, Tim battled prostate cancer. After surgery, all tests now show him clear of the disease. Barb, a two time breast cancer survivor, was crucial to his recovery. The two remain committed to raising awareness about prevention and early testing.

For many years, Tim Johnson has been an active voice in the fight for building a better future for all South Dakotans -- regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, income or religion. From championing fiscal responsibility to leading the charge on agricultural issues to fighting for children, youth, and families, Tim's commitment to creating positive change for all South Dakotans can clearly be seen in his legislative achievements. Perhaps that's why, after five terms in the House of Representatives, his 1996 election to the U.S. Senate and reelection in 2002, Tim remains one of the most popular public officials in South Dakota.

Tim and the Johnson Family: (clockwise) Tim, Jana, Sutton, Brooks, Brendan, Kelsey, Naida, and Barbara.