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Rafer & Betsy Johnson

The Womens Conference

How They Empower Others

Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson has been involved with scores of charities. However, he is most passionate about Special Olympics Southern California, which he founded in 1969. Rafer’s involvement in Special Olympics began the year before, when he attended the first Special Olympics competition, conducted by Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. What started with a handful of athletes has now grown to more than 13,000 athletes in Southern California, and Rafer’s commitment to persons with intellectual disabilities has been unwavering for more than 40 years.

As a U.S. Olympian, Rafer was the USA Team Captain and Flag bearer at the Rome Games and was selected to light the Olympic Cauldron to open the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.


Betsy Johnson is a long time educator, a community service organizer, and a diversity advocate. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in 1966. After receiving her degree, she taught in the Fountain Valley School District. Married to Rafer Johnson since 1971 they have two children, Jennifer and Josh. She has been actively involved with the Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley, an organization dedicated to the fight against discrimination in housing.  Her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease inspired her to become involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk where she has been a team captain for over ten years.