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Former Students Support Irving Journalism Teacher In His Final Days

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HURST (CBS 11 NEWS) - Students, who went to an Irving high school during the 70’s, are now rallying around one of their beloved former teachers.

The students, known as Heard’s Herd, say Johnny Heard not only taught journalism, he taught students how to become who they are today.

Heard isn’t sure how much time he has left. He’s under hospice care for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, a chronic lung disease.

Heard said, “My mother had this. And, my grandfather had it. I used to smoke. But, I haven’t smoked in 20 years.”

Heard is 70 years old. His wife, Geneva, died in December.

He was once a publicist for the old CBS station in Dallas, interviewing stars like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eddie Bracken, Rosemary DeCamp, June Allyson, Carol Burnett and an actor he referred to as Ronnie Reagan.

Heard says he started on the path to journalism by way of physics.

“I went in as a physics major and couldn’t do the math,” he said.

Journalism was a different story.

“I found it fascinating and EASY! Easy to go up and interview someone,” he said.

He also worked at the UT Press, Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Times Herald until it was sold.

“Molly Ivins and I wept together,” he said.

At the time, Heard and his wife, Geneva, had just adopted a little girl they named Tiffany Marie.

He said he would soon be out of a job and didn’t have another skill to fall back on.

That’s when his father offered to send him back to college.

Heard was 30 years old when he graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in education. His focus was journalism.

The decision to teach was one that would change many lives.

Lissa Armstrong Sawyer was one of his former students at MacArthur High School in Irving.

“I’ve been here seven or eight times,” I think.

Sawyer, who lives in Dallas, has been visiting Heard at his home in Hurst.

It was the mid 70’s, when Heard taught Lissa Armstrong Sawyer who she was. She is now a digital marketing manager.

“Who I was and who I could be. Who I could be, because he opened the doors for many of us,” she said.

Heard taught journalism at MacArthur High School for 15 years, beginning in 1972.

More than 200 former students have made time to visit Heard at his home.

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