Published: Fri May 2, 2014
Dave Johnson, a well-known radio disc jockey around the Upper Cumberland, is donating tapes of his past interviews to Tennessee Tech University’s archives.
“There are a lot of local characters, community leaders and politicians statewide and nationally who I think are worth preserving,” said Dave Johnson.
The TTU archives are in the bottom floor of the Angelo & Jennette Volpe Library.
TTU archivist Mancil Johnson, no relation to Dave Johnson, said it may take several months before the collection is complete and catalogued. The DJ is in the process of listening to many of the tapes again before donating them.
“He wants to see this preserved,” Mancil Johnson said. “It is his life’s work.”
Over the course of his career, Dave Johnson interviewed many people who are significant to the Upper Cumberland and its history but may not have made the national news. One figure that did reach national notoriety was Byron Looper, the politician who assassinated state Sen. Tommy Burks in 1998.
Notable figures Dave Johnson has interviewed include Fred Thompson, Ollie North, June Scobee Rogers, Millard Fuller and dozens of Tennessee Tech professors.
“We have the facilities to preserve the broad and deep oral history of this specific part of Tennessee,” Mancil Johnson said.
Dave Johnson has been a DJ in Cookeville for more than 30 years and has done around 3,000 interviews. He is an alumnus of Tennessee Tech and was an adjunct professor with the English department from 1986 to 1995.
An associate professor of English and communication at Volunteer State Community College, Dave Johnson still airs his interview show, “Cumberland Viewpoint,” once a week on four radio stations owned by Cookeville Communications: 94.7 The Country Giant, 106.1 The Eagle, 1400 WHUB and 780 WPTN.
Mancil Johnson said Dave Johnson has talked about donating the collection of tapes for more than a year.
“There’s a general interest in preserving as much as we can to maintain the history and culture of the region,” Mancil Johnson said.
A digital library will be set up so researchers can more easily access the recordings. Archives workers will transfer the interviews from cassettes to a more stable format.
“The ability to actually hear people’s voices is a different kind of archive from reading quotes or just reading information,” said Dave Johnson. “I think this is valuable and worthwhile to keep in the archives.”
The Volpe Library is at 1100 N. Peachtree Ave. It is available to visit 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, or by special appointment.