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Joseph Laurel Johnson Jr.

NEWPORT NEWS - Joseph Laurel Johnson Jr., age 91, passed away Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at home after a long illness. He was born on April 1, 1922 in Atlanta, GA, and remained in Atlanta through his college years. He earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1944 and was hired by NACA (NASA) for research at Langley, where he specialized in the dynamic stability and control of aircraft. In 1981, he became the head of the historic Langley Full-Scale Tunnel. During his 46-year career, he published over 100 technical reports on his research and became a highly respected researcher within the international engineering community for his technical expertise. Usually seen with a beat-up cigar in his mouth, he always inspired his fellow researchers with a can-do attitude of "Why not?" He particularly enjoyed initiating first-ever research on radical new aircraft configurations and concepts, and the technical community tracked and used his leading-edge projects with great interest. He had a special relationship with NASA-Langley's cooperative high school and college students, and assignments to the wind tunnel under his personal guidance were widely requested. He retired from NASA in 1990, but his revolutionary concepts continue to be applied to the Nation's civil and military aircraft. As an active member of the Grace United Methodist Church for 58 years, Joe served on various boards and committees. He especially enjoyed teaching children's Sunday School, working with the youth, and was active in the church sponsored Boy Scout troop. From a young age, and throughout his life, Joe enjoyed raising English Setters and bird hunting. Other leisure times were devoted to fishing, both in and around the Chesapeake Bay and the mountains, streams, and lakes of North Georgia. In his later years, he added art classes to his hobbies. A truly special time for Joe was to have friends and family gathered around, playing guitars, piano, or whatever your instrument, and singing a bit of bluegrass, gospel hymns, and his favorite Irish tunes. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Laurel Johnson and Leila Pearson Johnson, and his sister, Gwen Long. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Ann Sistrunk Johnson; his three sons, Lee of Olympia, WA, David of Mary's Home, MO, and Randy of Washington, D.C.; and four grandsons, Michael, Christopher, Joe, and Sam. A Funeral Service will be held at Grace United Methodist Church at 12 Noon on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service in the church narthex. Interment will follow in Peninsula Memorial Park. If you would like to remember Joe in a special way, please take a few minutes and visit someone who is homebound. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Grace United Methodist Church, designated for Mission Outreach, 1209 Country Club Rd., Newport News, VA 23606 or to a . Arrangements are by Weymouth Funeral Home.

Published in Daily Press on Feb. 26, 2014
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