Speakers & Issues Series


Donna Johnson

Donna Johnson, author 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University

Description: Readings from Holy Ghost Girl, a memoir

Donna Johnson was three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for Brother David Terrell, a hugely popular apocalyptic tent preacher during the 1960s and 70s. As a member of Brother Terrell's inner circle, Donna had a front row seat for the miracles, exorcisms, KKK face-offs, and betrayals of the flesh that were common under the tent. As the faithful followed their prophet to backwaters across the South to await the end time, Donna left the ministry for good at age seventeenRecounted with deadpan observation and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world where the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.


Donna Johnson spent years writing about the mysterious workings of technology, most of which she took on faith. She created, wrote, and produced a radio show called Tech Ranch, which said everything that could be said about technology and culture in one minute, five days a week, for too many years. Through the writing of Holy Ghost Girl, Donna found a way to connect the disparate parts of herself. The sight of a gospel tent stretched against an evening sky leaves an ache in her heart, but she no longer flees at the sound of a tambourine. She has been known to tell people she'll pray for them. And she does. The big questions posed by religion continue to occupy Donna. She has written about matters of faith for the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American Statesman. Donna lives and writes in Austin, Texas, where with the help of family and friends, she works at becoming a regular person.


"By seven o’clock on opening night, a dusty brown canvas and a collection of scuffed-up poles had been transformed into an ad hoc cathedral.  People came from near and far.  Black and white, old and young, poor and poorer.  Women with creased brows and apologetic eyes as faded as their cotton dresses, clutching two and three children who looked almost as worn out as their mothers.  Men, taut as fiddle strings, hunch-shouldered in overalls or someone else’s discarded Sunday best, someone taller and better fed.  They came to find a sense of purpose and a connection to God and one another.  They came because the promises of the beatitudes were fulfilled for a few hours under the tent, and the poor were truly blessed.  They came for miracles, answers, and salvation.  They came to see the show."