Johnnie Shell

Johnnie Shell

Johnnie Shell, a longtime computer technologist, died April 29. He was 74.

Shell was born on Oct. 23, 1945 in Leland, Mississippi. He was the second of three children born to Joe and Isabell Shell. He graduated from Broad Street High School in 1963 and went on to join the Army, earning the Purple Heart during the Vietnam War. After serving his country, he relocated to Chicago and then later moved to Oakland, where he met Geneva Gill.  They were married on June 24, 1973.

Shell’s lab career began in 1968 when he joined the computer center as a technologist. Much of the work when he joined the lab involved manual processes, such as hanging tapes, reading punched cards, and printing output on large printers. His tenure began with Control Data Computer (CDC) 3600 and IBM 7030 and 7094 systems. He would go on to support the CDC 6600, 7600, Star-100, Cray-1, X-MP, Y-MP, and a host of other supercomputers as well as the support infrastructure. Most recently he supported Sierra, the machine ranked on the Top500 list as the second most powerful supercomputer in the world.

Shell was known by his coworkers as kind, dedicated and hardworking. On his 50th anniversary at the Lab the Livermore Computing Division surprised him with an all-hands meeting that began with a video of  him with computers and colleagues from 1968 through 2018. Livermore Computing (LC) celebrated his dedication by presenting him with a signed photograph of himself in front of Sierra. A nameplate posted outside the main entrance to LC Operations notes it as the Johnnie Shell Operations Room.

Shell was a car enthusiast and enjoyed listening to jazz when he was behind the wheel. He enjoyed sports and could often be found watching games from his favorite seat in the house. He found great joy in spending time with his family and was a loving husband and father. He was a doting grandfather who took great pride in taking his grandson to get haircuts as part of their bonding time.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Isabell Shell, and his younger sister, Helen Lee. He is survived by his wife, Geneva Shell; daughter and son-in-law LaWandra and Denzil Adams Jr.; grandson Denzil Adams III; sister Mae Mosley; and a host of loving sisters- and brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends. Funeral services were held at the Zion Tabernacle House of Prayer in Oakland on May 7.