David Asper Johnson — founder, editor and publisher of The Argonaut — died early Wednesday, May 17th. The exact cause of death had not been determined at press time, but Johnson had battled a rare blood disease for some time. He was 68.
Johnson founded The Argonaut as a twice-monthly newspaper November 25th, 1971. The newspaper assumed a weekly distribution a year later.
In 1977, he was co-founder, founding co-publisher and founding editor of The Beach Reporter, a weekly published in Manhattan Beach.
For three years he represented California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Guam as a director of the National Newspaper Association, the nation’s largest association of small daily and weekly newspapers.
He also served as a director of the Suburban Newspapers of America and was a member of the Inland Press Association.
Johnson served several terms as a director of the California Newspaper Publishers Association and a term as president of the California Newspaper Association Southern California Unit.
Locally, for more than a decade, he served as a director and secretary of the Venice Family Clinic, the nation’s largest free clinic.
He was a member of a Daniel Freeman Hospital advisory committee seeking to open an emergency room and was a supporter of the Marina del Rey Library.
As a Citizen of the Year, Johnson was the recipient of the Helmsman Trophy given by the former Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce. He was named Citizen of the Year by the former Venice Marina del Rey Board of Realtors and Man of the Year by the Boys & Girls Club of Venice and the Church of the Marina.
Johnson began his newspaper career while a sophomore in high school, writing sports stories for the local Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Press and the weekly Kootenai County Leader.
Following graduation from Missoula County Union High School in Montana, he served two years of active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserve. While serving on the USS Rice County (LST1089), he began a weekly newspaper. At the time, the USS Rice County was said to be the smallest U.S. Navy ship with a weekly newspaper.
Following his discharge from active duty, he attended the University of Washington, where he was awarded a scholarship as the journalism student of the year.
He attended UCLA Law School, where he was editor of the UCLA Law School Docket the year the newspaper was named the best law school newspaper in the country.
Always interested in international travel, he joined a month-long tour of Europe in the late 1960s and ended up in The Hague, where he joined the American Chamber of Commerce in The Netherlands to help edit the first “Netherlands-American Trade Directory.”
Returning to the U.S. in 1970, he joined the staff of the Las Virgenes Enterprise, a weekly newspaper published in Calabasas.
Locally, he has served as a director and officer of several chambers of commerce.
He is survived by his friend, Mark Ikeda, a brother, Ronald Johnson, and numerous cousins, friends and colleagues.
Johnson directed that he be cremated and his ashes spread in a private ceremony. In accordance with his wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial service.