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A glimpse into the heart and mind of a philanthropic leader, volunteer and donor 

A glimpse into the heart and mind of a philanthropic leader, volunteer and donor 

May 23, 2024

In this episode of The Beacon Podcast, special guest host Parker Middleton talks with Tom Johnson, former president of CNN, chairman and CEO of CNN News Group and former president and publisher of The Los Angeles Times about philanthropy and the heart of giving.

In their discussion, Tom shares his thoughts on an array of topics around philanthropy and giving, including:

  • What compels him to get behind a cause with his time, heart, ideas and financial support.
  • How he decides what organizations to lend his name, networks and skill to.
  • What nonprofit leaders should know or do in order to work with volunteers like him.
  • How he handles it when met with a no from a prospective donor.
  • And so much more.

About Parker Middleton

Parker is a screenwriter and community volunteer in Athens who served as executive senior director of strategy and engagement at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Connect with Parker on LinkedIn

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson served as chief executive officer of two of America’s most respected news organizations, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. He was a reporter on The Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, a White House assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, executive vice president of the Texas Broadcasting Company and chief executive officer of The Dallas Times Herald, Los Angeles Time, and CNN.

Financial aid scholarships from Macon Telegraph publisher Peyton Anderson enabled Tom to attend the University of Georgia, where he received a journalism degree in 1963, and Harvard Business School, where he graduated with an MBA in 1965.

In 1965, Tom was chosen as a White House Fellow and assigned to Presidential Press Secretary Bill Moyers. The White House Fellowship led to a series of positions on the staff of President Johnson, including deputy to Press Secretary George Christian, special assistant to the president and executive assistant to former President Johnson in Austin, Texas. He later became executive vice president of the LBJ family’s Texas businesses, including a CBS television affiliate in Austin, AM and FM radio stations, cable television franchises, ranching, banking, Muzak and photo processing.

After President Johnson’s death in 1973, Tom was named editor and in 1975 publisher and chief executive officer of The Dallas Times Herald.

In 1990, Ted Turner recruited Tom as president of CNN.

In 2001, at age 60, Tom retired from CNN. He serves now as chairman emeritus of the Board of the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation and a member of the board of visitors of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He has served on the Rockefeller Foundation board, Mayo Clinic Foundation board, Knight Foundation board, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, Turner Broadcasting board, Peyton Anderson Foundation board and Times Mirror board. 

Tom has received the Horatio Alger award, Ten Outstanding Young Americans, Five Outstanding Young Texans, Five Outstanding Young Georgians, Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism and the highest honor of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the Paul White Award.

In 2006, he received the John Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award by the White House Fellows for lifetime achievement in public service. Adweek Magazine selected him as Publisher of the Year in 1984 and as Cable News Executive of the Year in 1991. He was elected to three terms on the Associated Press board of directors.

Learn more about Tom