Jane Clayson Johnson doesn't regret leaving career for family

Published: Monday, Nov. 22 2010 11:45 a.m. MST

In New York, she was introduced to a gathering of newspaper reporters from around the country as the new co-anchor of "The Early Show." One of the first questions they asked was about her Mormon faith and her refusal to drink coffee. How could she do "The Early Show" without coffee? Her religion would be a constant source of curiosity to reporters during the next few years.

In the years that followed, she covered President George W. Bush's inauguration and the 9/11 tragedy. She interviewed First Lady Laura Bush at the White House and anchored the one-year anniversary of 9/11 with Dan Rather.

In was a demanding job. Up at 3:45. Take the CBS limo to the studio at 4:15 with her hair still wet from the shower. Read four or five newspapers and talk to producers while her hair was blown dry and brushed and makeup applied. On the air by 6:30. Fill the rest of the day with lunches, meetings, speeches and taped interviews. Dinner at 5:30. Review four or five packets, 15 to 20 pages each, containing newspaper stories, biographies and news of the day that CBS sent to her apartment daily to prep for the next day's show. Compile interview questions for the next day. In bed by 9 p.m. Start again the next day.

"There was no time for anything else," she says. "It was incredibly intense." Her only break was Sunday and teaching an adult Sunday school class in her Mormon ward.

"She never planned on that career," says Hannah. "She felt like the Lord had brought her to where she was and was using her as an instrument for some good things. She also knew that she wanted to be married and have a family. The yearning was certainly there. She lived alone. There were times that were hard. It's hard when you're that age and in a high-profile position to meet someone who isn't intimidated by that."

In February 2001, some 18 months after settling in New York, Clayson was set up on a blind date with Johnson (he likes to joke that it wasn't a blind date for him because he had seen her on TV). Hannah was asked by a friend to arrange the meeting between her sister and Johnson, who owned a Boston-based management consulting business and had recently joined the LDS Church.

"I looked him up on the Internet of his business website," says Hannah. "I did my homework. I had a lot of people over the years who wanted me to set them up with my sister. I had my screening process."

Johnson came to New York and took Clayson to the Harvard Club. They continued to date for two and a half years. "They were very busy with travel and their careers," says Hannah. "And this was a second marriage. They wanted to make sure before they jumped in."

As fate would have it, Clayson's personal life and her professional life arrived at a crossroads almost simultaneously. "The timing was curious," she says. In the spring of 2002, Gumbel left "The Early Show." Clayson continued to work with a revolving door of male counterparts while CBS searched for a permanent replacement. Clayson had her moments, none more famous than when Martha Stewart came on the show at the height of the ImClone stock scandal that would eventually send her to prison. While Stewart chopped a cabbage, Clayson peppered her with questions about the scandal. Stewart made her first public comments about the controversy without missing a chop before she finally said, famously, "I want to focus on my salad." One observer compared it to a Saturday Night Live scene; it was great TV.

But CBS never could find a partner for Clayson and finally removed her from the show. She became a correspondent for CBS news and regularly reported for "Eye on America," "48 Hours" and the "CBS Evening News."

She married in September 2003. She was 36. Her contract with CBS expired at the end of the year, and she had decided that would mark the end of her professional career, although there were temptations to continue. ABC offered her a four-year contract just hours after Johnson proposed to her.

"It was a very lucrative offer to work on prime-time specials," she says. "By that time I had made up my mind, based on a great deal of prayer and thought."

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