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Former representative Dan Johnson labeled as 'true patriot'

6/30/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Dan Johnson, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives representing the 110th district from 1997 to 2011, died Sunday. He was 77.

"He was a true public servant and a true patriot," said Janis Lee, former state senator and former Chief Hearing Officer for the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals. "He was the kindest, gentlest man -- a true gentleman.

Though Johnson was a Republican, the respect he earned crossed political party lines.

"After he was elected, it didn't take very long to develop a mutual respect," said Glenn Staab, former chairman of the Ellis County Democratic Party.

"I had the utmost respect for him and his opinion," said Hays City Commissioner Eber Phelps.

Phelps, a Democrat, served as 111th district representative from 1997 to 2013.

Johnson and Phelps became fast friends, often traveling together to legislative forums.

"I heard a lot of his great stories," Phelps said.

Phelps visited Johnson last week, and Johnson "seemed to be in really good spirits. ... I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit him one more time."

Lee said she also recently had visited Johnson, and his death came as a shock.

"It's a loss to the whole community," she said.

Staab said his favorite story about Johnson was when he invited him along with other local dignitaries to a fundraiser for then Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Johnson and his wife, Gwen, attended, and Staab made it clear they weren't expected to donate to the campaign.

"Gwen said she would write a check in her name," Staab said.

Staab asked Johnson, a veteran, to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the fundraiser.

"Afterwards, I was surprised how many thought it was an honor to show respect for him as a veteran and (for him to show respect) to a sitting governor."

"So many Democrats admired Dan Johnson," Phelps said.

Phelps said he sent word of Johnson's death to former colleagues in Topeka and received a number of heartwarming responses.

"They are saying anything positive you can say about someone," he said.

Staab said he used to say of those who knew Johnson, "if you didn't like Dan Johnson, it was your own fault."

Johnson also sat on a number of boards of directors, including the Ellis County Extension, Ellis County Farm Bureau, Ellis County Historical Society, Friends of Historic Fort Hays, Kansas Livestock Association and Trego County Rural Water District 2.