Because of his race and Jim Crowism, Johnson was advised not to aspire beyond being a technician. But he was undeterred. Nicknamed “The Professor” by his high school buddies, as a senior Johnson represented his school at the 1968 Alabama State Science Fair. The fair took place at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, where just five years earlier, in 1963, Governor George Wallace had literally tried to bar two black students from enrolling in the school by standing in the doorway of the auditorium. As the only black boy in an all-white competition in the Deep South, Johnson neverheless won the competition hands down, much to the anger of university officials.