Former Ledger-Enquirer editor dies in North Carolina

Al Johnson
Al Johnson

Former Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor and Vice President Al Johnson died last week at age 70.

Johnson passed away Sept. 23 at a hospice facility in North Carolina.

His wife, Barbara, speaking via telephone from their home in Summerfield, N.C., said Johnson had recently chosen to go off dialysis after many complications. The journalist, who had been diagnosed with cancer, had previously had both a heart transplant and kidney transplant. On Sept. 4, he had fallen and broken his hip.

“Al had been ill for quite some time,” his wife said. This past year has been very difficult.”

Johnson was cremated and his wife is planning a memorial service to be held about four weeks from now.

When Johnson was named as editor in Columbus it was the first time an African-American had held such a position at a newspaper in the south, but his wife said Johnson did not think much about that.

“He used to say that editors are not colorful subjects. He loved journalism and just wanted to put out the best newspaper he could. He wanted to be able to put people’s lives in perspective,” Barbara said.

John Greenman, Ledger-Enquirer publisher when Johnson was in Columbus, had good memories of the former editor.

“Al Johnson cared about readers and how they were served by journalism. Al and I talked often about context and perspective, about how to cover a community as diverse and complex as Columbus. Al pushed hard for improvement everywhere and got results,” Greenman said.

Barbara said her husband was somebody who did not take himself too seriously.

“Everybody just loved his smile,” Barbara said.

Johnson was with the Ledger-Enquirer from March 1991 – February 1997 when he left for a position as associate publisher of the Houston Business Journal in Texas.

“We both loved Columbus,” Barbara said.

In Columbus, he was a member of the board of directors of the Kiwanis Club of Columbus, the Community Health Center of South Columbus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Prior to coming to Columbus, Johnson was executive editor and vice president of the Post-Tribune in Gary, Ind.

He served as publisher of The Business Journal in Greensboro, N.C., and his last position was as editor of Business East, a monthly business-to-business publication, in New Bern, N.C.

Johnson had worked as a regional editor at the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. He had worked as a reporter at that newspaper and well as at the Richmond News Leader in Richmond, Va.

Johnson attended North Carolina A&T State University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

He served on the board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists and as a member of the Pulitzer Prize nominating jury.

Besides his wife, Johnson is survived by his children Sheryl Mosley, Rochelle Muse and Barry Johnson. The Johnsons have four grandchildren.

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer