Johnson is also a retired United States Air Force Colonel and was a decorated fighter pilot in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War where in the latter he was an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nearly seven years.
On January 6, 2017, Johnson announced he will not run for reelection in 2018.
Johnson grew up in Dallas and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. Johnson graduated from Southern Methodist University in his hometown in 1951, with a degree in business administration. While at SMU, Johnson joined the Delta Chi social fraternity as well as the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity.
Johnson served a 29-year career in the United States Air Force, where he served as director of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School and flew the F-100 Super Sabre with the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying demonstration team. He commanded the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, Florida and an air division at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, retiring as a Colonel.
He is a combat veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars as a fighter pilot. During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in the F-86 Sabre and shot down one Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15. During the Vietnam War, Johnson flew the F-4 Phantom II.POW
On April 16, 1966, while flying his 25th combat mission in Vietnam, he was shot down over North Vietnam and suffered a broken arm and back. He was a prisoner of war for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement. During this period, he was repeatedly tortured.
Johnson was part of a group of eleven U.S. military prisoners known as the Alcatraz Gang, a group of prisoners separated from other captives for their resistance to their captors. They were held in "Alcatraz", a special facility about one mile away from the Hỏa Lò Prison, notably nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton". Johnson, like the others, was kept in solitary confinement, locked nightly in irons in a windowless 3-by-9-foot concrete cell with the light on around the clock. Johnson was released on February 12, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. Johnson recounted the details of his POW experience in his autobiography, Captive Warriors.
He walks with a noticeable limp, due to a wartime injury.
After his military career, he established a homebuilding business in Plano. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 and was re-elected four times.
On May 8, 1991, he was elected to the U.S. House in a special election brought about by eight-year incumbent Steve Bartlett's resignation to become mayor of Dallas. Johnson defeated fellow conservative Republican Thomas Pauken, also of Dallas, 24,004 (52.6 percent) to 21,647 (47.4 percent). Johnson thereafter won a full term in 1992 and has been reelected 12 times. The 3rd has been in Republican hands since 1968. The Democrats did not even field a candidate in 1992, 1994, 1998, or 2004.2004
Johnson ran unopposed by the Democratic Party in his district in the 2004 election. Paul Jenkins, an independent, and James Vessels, a member of the Libertarian Party ran against Johnson. Johnson won overwhelmingly in a highly Republican district. Johnson garnered 86% of the vote (178,099), while Jenkins earned 8% (16,850) and Vessels 6% (13,204).2006
Johnson ran for re-election in 2006, defeating his opponent Robert Edward Johnson in the Republican primary, 85 to 15 percent.
In the general election, Johnson faced Democrat Dan Dodd and Libertarian Christopher J. Claytor. Both Dodd and Claytor are West Point graduates. Dodd served two tours of duty in Vietnam and Claytor served in Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait in 1992.  It was only the fourth time that Johnson had faced Democratic opposition.
Johnson retained his seat, taking 62.5% of the vote, while Democrat Dodd received 34.9% and Libertarian Claytor received 2.6%. However, this was far less than in years past, when Johnson won by margins of 80 percent or more.2008
Johnson retained his seat in the House of Representatives by defeating the Democrat Tom Daley and Libertarian nominee Christopher J. Claytor in the 2008 general election. He won with 60 percent of the vote, an unusually low total for such a heavily Republican district.2010
Johnson won re-election with 66.3 percent of the vote against Democrat John Lingenfelder (31.3 percent) and Libertarian Christopher Claytor (2.4 percent).2014
Johnson handily won re-nomination to his 12th full term, twelfth full term, in the U.S. House in the Republican primary held on March 4. He polled 30,943 votes (80.5 percent); two challengers, Josh Loveless and Harry Pierce, held the remaining combined 19.5 percent of the votes cast.2016
Johnson won reelection to his 13th full term in the general election held on November 8, 2016. With 193,684 votes (61.2 percent), he defeated the Democrat Adam P. Bell, who polled 109,420 (34.6 percent). Scott Jameson and Paul Blair, the nominees of the Libertarian and Green parties, polled 10,448 votes (3.3 percent) and 2,915 (0.92 percent), respectively.2018
Three days after being sworn in for his 14th term overall and his 13th full term, Johnson announced he would not run for reelection.
In the House, Johnson is an ardent conservative. By some views, Johnson had the most conservative record in the House for three consecutive years, opposing pork barrel projects of all kinds, voting for more IRAs and against extending unemployment benefits. The conservative watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste has consistently rated him as being friendly to taxpayers. Johnson is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Johnson is a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and joined Dan Burton, Ernest Istook and John Doolittle in refounding it in 1994 after Newt Gingrich pulled its funding. He alternated as chairman with the other three co-founders from 1994 to 1999, and served as sole chairman from 2000-01.
On the Ways and Means Committee, he was an early advocate and, then, sponsor of the successful repeal in 2000 of the earnings limit for Social Security recipients. He proposed the Good Samaritan Tax Act to allow corporations to take a tax deduction for charitable giving of food. He chairs the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, where he has encouraged small business owners to expand their pension and benefits for employees. In December 2016, Johnson introduced H.R. 6489, a bill that would decrease Social Security payments to retired individuals and require individuals to wait two additional years in order to qualify for full retirement payments.
Johnson opposes calls for government intervention in the name of energy reform if such reform would hamper the market and or place undue burdens on individuals seeking to earn decent wages. He has called for allowing additional drilling for oil in Alaska.
Johnson is one of two Vietnam-era prisoners of war currently serving in Congress, along with John McCain.Committee on Ways and Means (Interim Chairman)
Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee on Social Security (Chairman)
Joint Committee on Taxation
Immigration Reform Caucus
International Conservation Caucus
Public Pension Reform Caucus
Johnson was married to the former Shirley L. Melton of Dallas from 1950 until her death on December 3, 2015. They were the parents of three children and ten grandchildren.
Johnson's decorations and awards include:1990: Johnson was inducted into the Woodrow Wilson High School Hall of Fame.
October 2009: the Congressional Medal of Honor Society awarded Johnson the National Patriot Award, the Society's highest civilian award given to Americans who exemplify patriotism and strive to better the nation.
2011: Freedom of Flight award
March 2016: Congressional Patriots Award
April 2016: Patriot Award