Death reported of Robert Johnston, former legislator and homeless advocate | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Death reported of Robert Johnston, former legislator and homeless advocate

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 7:19 AM

ROBERT JOHNSTON; Shown in a file photo in one of his demonstrations in support of caring for the homeless.
  • ROBERT JOHNSTON; Shown in a file photo in one of his demonstrations in support of caring for the homeless.
In a cruel coincidence, a new development in the city's ongoing struggle with how to deal with the homeless came the day of news of the unexpected death of Robert Johnston,  a tireless advocate for the homeless in a long career of public service.

Friends tell me Johnston collapsed and died while jogging on Broadway in the Quapaw Quarter, a neighborhood whose preservation and revitalization started in earnest in the early 1970s thanks to the impetus of a core of people who included Johnston, a former state legislator and Public Service Commission chairman.

Friends tell me a service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, where Johnston had long led a class discussing issues of the day. I heard from him regularly with tips from his voracious reading of national publications. But his passion for the homeless was unsurpassed, stirred recently by police enforcement action against a mission that serves meals to all comers from a storefront on Markham Street.

He was a founder, along with his partner Matilda Buchanan, of the Feed the Hungry breakfast program for homeless, which grew from his volunteer work at the Stewpot mission.

He led a remarkable life. The Pine Bluff native (Pine Bluff High 1958) went to Rice, where he was a football star on a then-powerful Owl team (he tackled LSU great Billy Cannon on the first play of his first collegiate game, he liked to remember) and became a Rhodes scholar. He passed up pro football offers for academia. He served three years in the Army airborne, earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University and taught at West Point before landing on the faculty at UALR. He served eight years in the Arkansas House. Gov. Bill Clinton appointed him chair of the PSC and in later years he did government consulting work in places as far-flung as Armenia, Ukraine and Indonesia.

When honored by his alma mater, Rice, it compiled this summary of his time there and in subsequent years.


Tags: , ,


Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Women's March planned in Arkansas to mark Trump inauguration

    Speaking of Donald Trump and in answer to a reader's question: There will be a women's march in Arkansas on Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, as well as the national march planned in Washington.
    • Dec 30, 2016
  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Your daily dose of Jason Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert really, really didn't like it when a KATV reporter asked him about the hypocrisy of his political arguments.
    • Feb 4, 2017

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation