Biography of Barbara Brooks Johnson

Issue Page: Barb Bio

A native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Barbara Brooks Johnson believes her roles as wife, mother, and professional go hand in hand with her strong commitment to community, family, and making a difference in the lives of others.

A graduate of the University of South Dakota and Michigan State University, Barbara has been active in children's issues and services for more than forty years. Her experiences merge a unique blend of South Dakota and national policy, direct practice and academic research, and have helped establish Barbara as a role model and strong voice for children in South Dakota and Washington, DC.

Before her husband's election to the United States House of Representatives in 1986, Barbara held a position as an Associate Professor at the University of South Dakota. While teaching and researching, she worked closely with the South Dakota Department of Social Services in obtaining and directing training grants for child welfare staff. It was during this time she gained a valuable understanding of the potentially powerful combination of community involvement, education, and sound policy in making life better for South Dakota's children.

In addition to her work at the University, she spent fifteen years as a social worker in elementary and secondary education. She is intimately acquainted with the education and mental health needs of students. She also worked on the assessment team for the STARBASE program.  STARBASE is an educational program at the Department of Defense to interest at risk youth in science, technology, engineering and math. She recently retired to pursue family interests. 

Barbara currently serves as a steering committee member for the Executive Council for Congressional Families for Cancer Prevention. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor and remains active in promoting the need for cancer research and early detection through public service announcements and presentations.

After serving with the Army in Bosnia, Kosovo, South Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq, their oldest son, Brooks, currently works with the National Guard. In May 2004, Brooks married Naida Snipas Johnson of Massachusetts. They have a son, Arijus Timothy Johnson, and a daughter Aureja.

Their second eldest son Brendan is the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota. Brendan previously worked as an assistant prosecutor for Minnehaha County, clerked for U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in Rapid City and  practiced law in Sioux Falls. Married to Jana Beddow, together they have four children: Sutton, Trualem, Peneal and Cooper.

Their daughter, Kelsey, a graduate of the University of South Dakota and George Washington University, works in policy development for the American Association for Cancer Research.