At an early age, Bill's parents moved to Utah and took him along. He grew up in Utah. He graduated from high school in Ogden, Utah, on June 1, 1943. On June 3 he was sworn into the U.S. Navy. He served on submarines in the Pacific during WWII,
Following the war; he used the GI Bill to go to The University of Utah.
Upon graduation he became a course pro. He was a club professional for 42 years at a number of courses "out west."
During this period, he also found time to compete in 335 PGA Tour-sanctioned events, including 196 on what is now called PGA Tour Champions. He won two PGA Tour titles, the 1958 Texas Open, and 1960 Utah Open. He also won 11 state championships.
As if that wasn't enough, Johnston also was a golf course architect. He designed eight golf courses.