David J. Johnson Jr., a retired academic counselor who sold haberdashery for 50 years and also represented National Bohemian beer, died of heart failure Nov. 11 at Gilchrist Hospice Towson. The Ashburton resident was 92.
“He worked at Sam Glass and Sons and later Brian Lefko, where he was instrumental in the right-of-passage for boys and young men to purchase their first suit,” said his daughter, Dana Johnson Gaskins. “He was a smart and spiffy dresser all of his life, and he became a mentor to the younger salespeople. People called him Mister Dave."
Born in Baltimore and raised in West Baltimore on Bennett Place, he was the son of Mabel and David L. Johnson Sr., an early black appointee to the Baltimore City Liquor Board.
His daughter said that her father once described his childhood as "ideal, with wonderful, loving, wise parents.”
When he was 8, he won a first prize in painting contests held at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Walters Art Museum.
“He was among the first to graduate from the Carnegie Grant Art Program, and as a result art became a thread throughout his life,” his daughter said. “His portraits, especially in his earlier years, were fine renditions.”
She said her father painted Judge Harry Cole in 2008. The portrait hangs in Frederick Douglass High School, from which Mr. Johnson was 1944 graduate.
Mr. Johnson played football at Douglass and ran track and field. He participated in the 1951 Olympic trials.
He served in the Army during the Korean War and earned an education degree from Morgan State University. He also studied in the medical illustration program at the University of Pennsylvania and attended Loyola University Maryland.
As a young man he tried to run for the Maryland House of Delegates and was active in the Esquires Social Club and the Douglass Alumni.
Mr. Johnson married Constance Kelley, a singer who appeared in operas, and they lived in Ashburton. They met at her family’s Columbus, Ohio, dry cleaning business.
Mr. Johnson joined the Krey Meat Company in 1954 and sold its products in the Mid-Atlantic area. He was later a district manager for National Bohemian Brewing and worked on the artwork for its Colt 45 brand. He was later manpower manager for the Baltimore Metropolitan Chapter Chamber of Commerce.
He also sold suits at Sam Glass’ men’s clothing store on Gay Street and later at Brian Lefko Men’s Clothier.
From 1971 to 1974, he was the executive director of the Baltimore County Community Action Agency.
He later joined the Baltimore City Community College as its director of job placement and became assistant director of cooperative education and director of non-credit courses. He also taught evening business and psychology classes at Coppin State College, the Maryland and Jessup penitentiaries and the Patuxent Correctional Institute.
“He retired 25 years ago and reinvented himself as director of student development at Sojourner Douglass College,” his daughter said. “He spent 15 years teaching childcare certification courses.”
She also said her father was a family man.
“He was dutiful at driving the girls and their friends to and from parties. He took us for Carvel ice cream and to roller skating rinks, haunted houses and anywhere our hearts desired," his daughter said. "He required all the family at the dinner table on Sundays at six for grace, and that went for company too.”
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“Every other weekend we went to museums,” said his son, David Christopher Johnson III of Brooklyn, New York. “We went the Smithsonian, Baltimore Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was very lucky.”
He also said, “My father had a great sense of humor and was a loving, kind person. He was part of a great generation — he wore the suit with a fedora hat. He was a gentleman who was happy to be a player.”
Mr. Johnson enjoyed taking his family to dinners in Little Italy and at Zaberers in Atlantic City in addition to their trips to Virginia Beach, Virginia. He liked to bodysurf and walk the boardwalk and treat himself to Belgian waffles and strawberries.
He received an appreciation award from the Kiwanis Club of Towson and was honored by the National Alliance of Businessmen with its Youth Motivation Award. Baltimore City Community College gave him its 2013 Outstanding Service Award.
A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Providence Baptist Church, 1400 Pennsylvania Ave., where he was a member.
In addition to his daughter and son, survivors include another daughter, Avis Johnson of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. His wife, Constance, died in 2015. A daughter, Marchelle Johnson Wood, died in 2013.