Daniel Johnson was born on June 23, 1961, to Mary Johnson, a full-time public librarian in Oxford, Mississippi. The mother and son lived with Mary's mother, Abigail, who cared for Dan as if he were her own.
Mary never mentioned Dan's father, and Dan never learned who he was or how his parents met. Although teased by other children for the obscurity of his birth, Dan never made an issue of the mystery.
Surrounded by books and a love of learning from an early age, Dan found solace in his schoolwork. He proved a slightly above-average student and focused all his energies on his studies until at age twelve he discovered tennis during a two-week summer camp.
From that point on, Dan split his attention between school and tennis, serving as captain of the high school tennis team his junior and senior years. Although his grades and scores were more than acceptable, tennis earned him the scholarships and grants that allowed him to pursue his academic dreams.
With advanced degrees in English and administration, Dan easily landed a position in the English department at the University of Mississippi, quickly advancing to his current position of department head.
Since graduating from college, Dan has had four long-term relationships and one two-year marriage (1992-1994) to Beth Compari, who has since remarried and moved to Nebraska. He has never been known to date anyone — administrator, faculty, or student — connected to Ole Miss.
However, Dan is active in university social circles, regularly attending sporting events as well as alumni and faculty gatherings, especially those hosted or attended by members of his department. Within the past six months, he has started playing tennis with Douglas Reed.