There have been a lot of good athletes wear the blue and gray for Washington-Lee High School but few who remained in Arlington long enough to share their memorable stories. Richard Johnson, known as “Biff” to his friends, is one of those few. His former playing and coaching days in Arlington were brought to my attention by our mutual friend Tony D., and as of this writing Mr. Johnson still lives in Arlington, the county where he was born in 1930.
After scanning photos and articles from his scrapbook, I called to ask questions of the 88-year-old and found his mind remarkably sharp. The scrapbook is loaded with wonderful pictures and articles, including his Washington-Lee playing days which caused us both to contemplate how the school name could ever be changed? The memories below continue through the coaching days for Mr. Johnson, who coached quite a few local kids, many who have sadly passed away. One of those no longer with us was a Little Leaguer named Bobby Rimmer, who grew up to be the adored head football coach at W-L in the 1970’s. Mr. Johnson even coached a Little Leaguer who grew up to become a Redskins legend.
“Biff” recalled his father, Paul Johnson, who was a Fire Chief in Clarendon during the 1920’s and 1930’s, when Arlington only had four stations. He was thrilled to share stories about the 1949 W-L baseball team which won the state championship but lost in the regionals in Johnson City, TN. He went on to discuss his early career years when he worked at the post office in Buckingham until 1952, then left to join the Central Intelligence Agency.
Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for sharing some of your treasures with Arlington.
The 1946 Thomas Jefferson Junior High football team with co-captain Biff holding football on right.
Biff's father, Paul Johnson.
Clarendon Station Fire Chief Paul Johnson around 1940.
1948 circa Washington-Lee High School.
Biff loosening up on Quincy Street field in 1948.
From a 1948 Arlington Daily Newspaper.
Some 1949 W-L baseball team members celebrating their 10-0 win over St. Johns from left to right: Biff Johnson CF, Eppie Riddle RF, Hal Beale 3b, Stan Monroe P, Klink Prince SS, and Jim Utterback C. Klink Prince was once a member at Washington Golf & Country Club in Arlington and along with John DeLuca developed the golf betting system known as the "DeKlink."
The 1949 State Champions. Biff is seated in the front row, far right.
Known as the "Little Generals" because Washington-Lee was named after the Washington & Lee University Generals.
Biff was also a football player at W-L, playing halfback and defensive back.
The 1948 Washington-Lee football team. Biff is shown in the back row, far left.
A newspaper clipping from the "Old Oaken Bucket" game in 1948...
...and the actual photo. This was taken at the old George Washington High School field. G.W. became part of T.C. Williams H.S. some 20 years later, as told in the movie 'Remember the Titans.'
Biff wearing number 53 in the lower left of this picture. He said he never liked having that number as a halfback and defensive back but it's what the coach gave him.
In this fun and rare photo Biff can be seen in the backfield wearing his number 68 scrimmage jersey alongside Bruce Hillenbrand, who was an exceptional baseball player but went on to play football at Wake Forest.
The "Old Oaken Bucket" game was played between W-L and G.W. every Thanksgiving for many years. In this article Biff's first name is listed incorrectly.
Washington-Lee football coach Harry "Pop" Deming.
At the Washington-Lee Turkey Hop.
Biff was a three-sport letterman. Shown here on the W-L basketball team in the front row, far left.
1952 photo of the local Virginia White Sox, a team in the Old Dominion League. It's believed this photo was taken on what used to be the lower baseball field at Yorktown High School, now a multi-use field. As exactly listed on the back of the photo, seated from left to right: B. Wallace (bat boy), D. Hillenbrand, S. Speaker, L. O'Neill, D. Haislip. Standing left to right: B. Hillenbrand, S. Sheffield, D. Thomas, G. Freisem, P. Johnson, Lacovey, B. Johnson, F. Tuthill (Mgr.), S. Lanham, and D. Druckenmiller. Not pictured are B. Reed and R. Horning.
The White Sox on the upper ball field at Yorktown (Greenbrier Park) which is now the football field. It appears to be 27th Street North behind the players.
It's believed that Coach Tuthill was Jay Franklin's grandfather. Franklin was a local legend baseball player who made it to Major League Baseball before his arm gave out.
By this time, Biff (rear left) had moved on to coaching since his father-in-law, shown in the back with a tipped cap, asked him to run his team, the Mailander Mates. The name of the team came from its owner's name, John "Mate" Mailander.
The Seaport Inn was an old restaurant in Alexandria. I'd love to know which movie the team went to see but Biff couldn't recall.
It's always fun to read the names of the old Arlington sponsors. Stewart Buick was located in Rosslyn and Kenyon-Peck Chevrolet was located on Wilson Blvd in Clarendon (now a CVS). In this article is the name Bubby Talbot and it would be nice to know if this is Fred Talbot, a super pitcher who went on to pitch in MLB and would have been about the right age.
This is one of my favorite photos from the collection. Four Mile Run Playfield became Barcroft Park. I remember when it was a big deal to be chosen to put the scores on the board.
This appears to be the 1953 Mates team and here is exactly how the names are listed on the back. Note Bobby Rimmer was my junior year football coach at Washington-Lee. Back row: Coaches Jim Kilby, Biff Johnson, and Jackie Johnson. Middle row: Baxter Lemmond, Buddy Peterson, Birt Webley, Dick Barrazotta, Billy Bridgeman, Oliver Easterwood, and Ray Williams. First row: Ray Defrees, Butch Richardson, Bobby Rimmer, Jerry Francis, Danny (Cotten) Wilson, Vance Fabella, and bat boy Roger Cook.
In this article you will see the name Carroll "Keggers" Simpson. Biff fondly shared with me that Keggers was his favorite player because he had "two club feet" but never let his disability get in his way.
This 1953 article mentions Arlington Little League was in its second year and was hosting its first All-Star game. It also mentions the name Oliver Eastman (not Easterman) as the earlier picture read on the back. He must have been good regardless of the spelling because he's listed as a probable starter in the All-Star game.
Arlington Little League photo from Biff's scrapbook.
Another Arlington Little League photo from Biff's scrapbook.
The clarity of this 1954 team photo is outstanding and shows former Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger standing as the tallest kid in the back row. Biff said he was lucky that the Little League Commissioner notified him there was a new kid in Arlington who wanted to play baseball so he agreed to take on the left-handed pitcher. Biff is standing behind the future NFL Hall of Famer. My research shows that Hanburger's father was in the military and they lived for a short time in the Arlington Forest neighborhood.
This is just a fun article added to the collection.
Another fun addition since this Award Certificate, from Washington-Lee to Biff, is signed by J. Elwood Clements, a former sheriff in Arlington County.
Biff seen standing behind baseball legend and former Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith.