The Living Church

Year Article Type Limit by Author

The Living ChurchJanuary 29, 1995Bishop Johnson Found Dead 210(5) p. 7

Bishop Johnson Found Dead
Gunshot wound appears to have been self-inflicted

The Rt. Rev. David E. Johnson, Bishop of Massachusetts, was found dead Jan. 15 in his apartment of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 61.

Local police said "There was no evidence of a struggle, no evidence of forced entry, and nothing was missing from the apartment." Police said it appeared Bishop Johnson died Saturday, Jan. 14.

Bishop Johnson already had announced his retirement and was to begin a sabbatical this month. He and his wife, Joyce, had sold their home last year, and moved to an apartment in Framingham, Mass. They recently purchased a retirement home in Kansas, and Mrs. Johnson already was living there.

"This devastating time is filled with pain, anger and questioning for all of us who knew, worked with, loved and were loved by Bishop Johnson," said the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, Bishop Coadjutor of Massachusetts, who was scheduled to become diocesan June 5. "David often spoke of everyone's 'giftedness,' the gifts each person brings to the life of the church and for the common good of the human family."

The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts, called Bishop Johnson "a very warm, loving person, very committed to the ministry with people and with a particular interest in the well-being of children."

Bishop Johnson had established a program called DoveMass, which recruits volunteers to work in public schools. He had hoped to help other dioceses establish programs for young persons during his sabbatical.

The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Edmond L. Browning, said he was "deeply saddeneded by this tragic end to David Johnson's life and ministry," and that the "whole church joins in thanksgiving for his ministry."

Bishop Johnson was born in Newark, N.J., in 1933. He graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., in 1955, then was a pilot for three years in the Strategic Air Command.

He graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1961. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1961 and to the priesthood in 1962, in the Diocese of Arkansas. He served Good Shepherd Church, Little Rock, 1961-1965, then became vicar of St. Martin's, Fayetteville, Ark., in 1965, serving until 1972.

In 1972, he became rector of Calvary Church, Columbia, Mo., and remained there until 1976. He was called to the Diocese of Southwest Florida in 1976 to become rector of St. Boniface, Sarasota. He remained there until 1985, when he was elected Bishop Coadjutor of Massachusetts. He served as coadjutor in 1986-86, then succeeded the Rt. Rev. John B. Coburn as Bishop of Massachusetts.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, whom he married in 1958, and three children. Bishop Browning presided at the funeral liturgy Jan. 19 in Trinity Church, Boston.