a good education, and they both excelled. Roy was active on the track team and debating team, and he was encouraged to pursue a track scholarship at the University of Southern California. In the end he did get a debating scholarship, which made it possible for him to attend USC.
Having worked for his father at a young age in construction, Johnston gained an early-on insight into construction and a desire to be an engineer. He found that USC had a program in civil engineering geared toward the design professional, and with Professors Fox and David M. Wilson as mentors and friends, Roy gained the skills that launched his career.
Roy graduated cum laude with a B.S. in civil engineering in 1935. After a brief time with the Los Angeles County Building Department, he worked for seven years with Clyde Deuel, a Los Angeles engineering consultant, and designed his first buildings, such as the I. Magnin store on Wilshire Boulevard, and seismically strengthened schools in the aftermath of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. When World War II started, he moved to the Lummus Company and worked for George Brandow, a colleague from USC, in refinery design. The military needed 100-octane gasoline for the bombers, and Roy started the design of the 27 “cat crackers” refining systems. When George moved over to Union Oil Company in charge of the fieldwork at the refinery, Roy became chief engineer for Lummus. Despite their efforts to enlist in the military, Roy and George were kept in their critical war-related activities.
At the close of World War II and at the encouragement and backing of a leading Los Angeles architect, John C. Austin, Johnston joined forces with George Brandow and started their consulting firm with their first project, the Business Administration Building at the University of California at Los Angeles. The partnership flourished because of the postwar boom in buildings in Los Angeles and because Roy and George were natural partners, complementing each other’s talents and skills. This was the beginning of a pattern of long relationships with the prominent architects of Southern California, such as William Pereira, Welton Becket, Edward Durell Stone, Claud Beelman, Adrian Wilson, I. M. Pie, Langdon & Wilson,