Samuel Norman Johnson, III

June 17, 1927 - February 28, 2014
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Samuel Norman Johnson, III, affectionately known to many as Laredo’s “Mr. Theatre”, passed away Friday, February 28, 2014 at his home in Laredo, Texas.

A longtime business leader and philanthropist of the arts, “Sammy” helped nurture Laredo’s amateur and professional thespians through his tireless participation in, support of and zeal or the performing arts.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel N. Johnson, Jr., and Elizabeth Korbly Johnson and brother Charles Korbly Johnson.

He is survived by his sister, Elizabeth J. Gill; nephew David Payne, great niece Joanna Payne Perkins; great nephew, Andrew L. Payne; niece Janet M. Payne.

The Johnson family was steeped in border business and traditions.  His grandfather, Silas N. Johnson, moved to Laredo from New York in the 1880’s.  He went on to found S.N. Johnson Bottling Works, bottlers and distributors of Budweiser and Coca-Cola here for over 82 years.

Born at Laredo’s Mercy Hospital, he graduated from Austin’s St. Edward’s High School and St. Edward’s University.  After serving in the Army Air Force, he returned to Laredo to join the family’s businesses.

Upon the death of his father, he directed the growth of the Budweiser Distributorship and, with the assistance of his sister, Elizabeth Johnson Gill, expanded the Laredo Coca- Cola company’s business portfolio.  Both remained active in the company until its sale in 1992.

While the family’s tradition was business, it was much involved in the community service and the championing of historical preservation, roles that Sammy particularity relished.

He dedicated service to local theatre saw the Laredo Little Theatre (LLT) name its annual performers awards the “Sammy’s.”  His love of the local history often saw him shepherd downtown trolley or walking tours for the Webb County Heritage Foundation (WCHF).  He never tired of the occasional cameo in productions and was routinely a driving force behind the scenes as well.

Active in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association, he portrayed George Washington in the 1979 pageant.  His appointment and awards, memberships and civic involvements were numerous.

The Laredo Chamber of Commerce provided him at Lifetime Achievement Award, while the Kiwanis named him recipient of the Kiwanis Humanitarian Award.  The LLT gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to him, while the WCHF designated him recipient of its Meritorious Service and Lifetime Achievement Awards.

In 1999 he was inducted as a laureate in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.  In 2009, alongside Joe Arciniega and Hortense Offerle, he announced the formation of the Laredo Theater Guild International, collaboration with Texas A&M International University (TAMIU).  In 2010 he served as honorary President of the Republic of the Rio Grande for the WCHF.

A frequent performer in the Laredo Little Theatre, the Laredo Philharmonic Chorale and Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra, the self- admitted “ham” was equally adept at stage construction, last-minute costume repairs and one-main promotional efforts.  Most important, he thought, was the need to encourage participation in and support for Laredo’s performing arts.  He was convinced that Laredo’s pool of talent was immense and boundless.

Many thought he embodied the spirit of volunteerism and was essentially a private sector public servant.  He considered the designation of the Samuel N. Johnson Experimental Theatre at TAMIU among his life’s top honors.

Those wishing to honor his memory are encourage to support the Johnson Experimental Theatre at TAMIU, 5201 University Boulevard, Laredo, Texas, 78041 or Webb County Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 446, Laredo, Texas or Laredo Little Theatre, 4802 Thomas Avenue, Laredo, Texas 78041.

A memorial service will be held at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at Fred Dickey Funeral Chapel. Light refreshments and coffee will be provided after the service.  Funeral arrangements are under the care of Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services, 1320 Trey Dr., Laredo, TX 78041. (956)723-3611.  You may sign the register book or place your condolences to the family online at




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Service Schedule

Memorial Information

Date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Time: 3:30 pm

Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services


1320 Trey Dr.
Laredo, Texas 78041


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Timeline for Samuel Norman Johnson, III

Born: June 17, 1927
Died: February 28, 2014

Condolences for Samuel Norman Johnson, III

Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services.


Fernando Mendoza posted on 11/8/23

My dear Sammy, we all miss your talent but I know wanted you up in Heaven to give it a lift up, decorated. I know that you will do a tremendous job, Ony God gave you that talent ?When I go up I will look for you See you later ?


Frank rosado posted on 1/23/19

In memory of Samuel Norman Johnson, III, Frank rosado lit a candle


Sara H Hetland posted on 3/6/14

Mrs. Gill I am sorry to hear of your brother's passing. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Sara Helen Hanlon Hetland


Adriana McKendrick posted on 3/5/14

Dear Mrs. Gill, Bill and I were so sorry to hear of Sammy's passing. He leaves a void in all our hearts and in this Community that he loved so dearly and to which he gave so much of his time, energy, talent, graciousness, and largesse. Laredo and the arts have suffered a tremendous loss, as have you and the rest of his family. We will continue to keep him and his family in our prayers, and remember him with fondness and love. Sammy is now entertaining in the greatest theatre on earth, Heaven. God Bless him and all of you as well.


Zulema Miller posted on 3/5/14

To Sam who enriched our lives with his friendship, his giving ways and encouraged us to culture history and accepting adversity. We love you and thank you Sam. Zulema Miller - Mansfield, Tx Byron Miller - Mansfield, Tx Carla Easter - Savannah, GA


David and Ginger Richter posted on 3/5/14

goodbye, old friend we will miss you,for there will never be the likes of you again.


Julia Vera posted on 3/3/14

Dearest Sammy I will always remember your encouraging words . Your generous spirit. You opening your home for all kinds of special occasions. Love seeing you perform on the stage. Your support kept the Little theater open and available to all those actors, writers and directors. You will be missed. I pray to God that the big stage is heaven is ready for you so that you can continue bringing joy to all the actors that are waiting for you. All my love and gratitude. Julia Vera from Los Angeles, CA.


Meme & Olivia Bravo posted on 3/3/14

Our condolences to all the family of such a talented & great humanitarian. We will miss our reminiscences of the good ole days at St Edwards in Austin and seeing all of his wonderful productions. God Bless.


Dianne Addison Ramirez posted on 3/3/14

Laredo Little Theatre is deeply saddened by Sammy’s passing, but will remember him with great affection and respect. Please accept our sincere condolences for your loss and that of the whole theatre community. Sammy will be missed, but will remain in our hearts where he touched us over the years.


Antonio Rodriguez posted on 3/3/14

The City of Laredo have lost a treasure of person ╬ Rest in Peace Mr. Sam N. Johnson Jr. ╬ we will miss Mr.Johnson wholeheartedly sincere condolences for the sister like the rest of his family ;ƒrom Ray York and Antonio Rodriguez


Norma P. Vargas posted on 3/3/14

God's gain is our loss. Thanks for the wonderful memories, Mr. Johnson. I will always remember you and your family in my prayers. We shared many a wonderful conversation about music and the arts. I'm Lolas niece. Norma Vargas


Gertrude Ann Ramos posted on 3/2/14

My deepest sympathy to his family. My prayers for his wonderful sister Betsy. I enjoyed Sammy's knowledge of Laredo's history so very much. He was such a great man! Gertrude Ann Ramos


Roxanne Maxwell-Holloway posted on 3/2/14

Everyone who knew Sam has been touched by that smile, his warmth, his recognition, it wasn't simply disarming charm, it was a deep genuineness that is so rare that it would be difficult for those that have not personally encountered Sam to understand or to believe. I was blessed to have known Sam, and although it was very nearly a half century ago, his generous teaching and encouragements sustained me during difficult times. Sam remains a great influence in my best personal and artistic goals, I shall forever be grateful. Deepest condolences to his family and closest friends.


Pam Shockley posted on 3/2/14

sammy you were such a great friend to all who knew you. You inspired me in my acting career I thought life was actually an act, but i kept dreaming on. I guess reality has to come sometimes, but that's life. Love, Pam Shockley I will always remember the great halloween parties.


russell harris posted on 3/2/14

Break a leg Sam - you're on the big stage now amigo, someplace your endless hard work and your never tiring positive attitude gives you the backstage pass you so righteously deserve...


Ricardo Garcia posted on 3/2/14

Betsy and Family, I was so sorry to hear about Sammy. He certainly led a long and colorful life and he will be missed. I will always be grateful to him for his huge influence on my theatrical career. Prayers and God bless Ricardo Garcia