In Remembrance: David A. Johnson ’57, ’63MCP Died on November 29 2022

David Alan Johnson of Asheville, North Carolina, died on November 29, 2022, with his wife and daughters at his bedside.

A native of New York City, Johnson was the son of the late Frederick G. Johnson and Adelaide Wilson Johnson. He attended Brooklyn Tech and Mount Hermon School, received bachelor and master’s degrees in architecture and planning from Yale, and earned a PhD in regional planning from Cornell. He was an Army veteran and served at the US Military Academy.  

Johnson believed passionately in the power of great public spaces to nurture civil society, and he devoted his whole adult life to research, teaching, and public service in this realm. In his early career, Johnson served on the staffs of the Boston Redevelopment Authority; the National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, DC; and the Regional Plan Association in New York. During his teaching career, he was a faculty member and department chair of planning at Syracuse University, Ball State University, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He specialized in international development and worked in more than twenty countries. In 1972, Johnson directed an environmental research project in Slovenia. In 1978, he was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, the first American urban planner to teach in the Soviet Union. A teaching and research Fulbright to Cyprus in 1998–99 focused on using urban development to connect the Greek and Turkish communities on the divided island. Johnson participated in or led faculty-group Fulbrights to India and Thailand and directed research projects on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. He also assisted in planning for the rebuilding of the city of Sarajevo after the Bosnian War.

On the domestic scene, Johnson served on the design team for the award-winning master plan for the State Capitol and Bicentennial Mall in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the author of articles and several books in the field of urban planning. Johnson was a past president of the Fulbright Association of the United States and a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. In his retirement in Asheville, he served on the boards of the Asheville Design Center and the UN Association of WNC, and more recently as a tireless advocate for the renovation and reinvigoration of the Asheville Young Men’s Institute (YMI), a keystone of the historic Black community. Just weeks before his death, his research on the Regional Plan Association was honored in the RPA centenary exhibition in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Eleanor Stephens Johnson, and three daughters, all of whom attended Yale College: Elizabeth Kostova ’88 of Asheville; Jessica Honigberg ’90 of Washington, DC; and Victoria Johnson ’91 of New York City. He is also survived by his sons-in-law Steven Honigberg and Georgi Kostov, and by five beloved grandchildren: Lily Honigberg, Clara Honigberg, Anthony Kostov, Yanka Kostova, and Kiril Kostov. 

—Submitted by the family.

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