Johnson was born in Montclair, New Jersey, and debuted in 1943. He had an impressive rookie season which earned him 4th place in American League MVP voting. After missing 1944–1945 for wartime service in the United States Army, where he fought in the European Theater of Operations, he returned to MLB to spend the next five seasons as a regular third baseman. Nicknamed "Bull", and standing 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) tall and weighing 180 pounds (82 kg; 13 st), Johnson was named an All-Star in 1947, and was a part of four championship teams in his six seasons as a regular. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1951 to allow Gil McDougald, a hot prospect for the Yankees, to play his position full-time. He served as the Cards' third baseman for two years before retiring during the 1953 season.
In later years he worked as a shipping supervisor in Augusta, Georgia. He died there on June 20, 2006.