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Dan L. Johnston

1938 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Dan L. Johnston Obituary
Dan L. Johnston

Des Moines

Dan L. Johnston died Friday, October 21, 2016 of cancer at the age of 78. He was born on April 6, 1938 in Montezuma Iowa to Orie and Vera Johnston.

Dan was a staunch advocate for the civil rights of others. Even before he became a lawyer, Dan began working to set up the pretrial release project in Polk County, allowing indigent persons accused of crimes the ability to be released while their cases were sorted out. After receiving his law degree from Drake University Law School, Dan immediately began practicing and working with the ACLU. At the age of 30, Dan successfully argued the landmark U.S. Supreme Court free speech case, "Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District" ("the black armband case") which established free speech rights for students in public schools. Dan also argued "In re Legislative Districting" before the Iowa Supreme Court which established that Iowa's Congressional districts may not be gerrymandered.

Dan served a term in the Iowa General Assembly in from 1967-68 and later served as the Polk County Attorney from 1977 - 1985.

Dan was an avid Sailor and a member of the Harlem Yacht Club in New York City where he lived from 1972 until 1977 and from 1985 until 2012. While in New York, Dan served on the board of the Gay Men's Health Crisis and the New York police complaint review board. Dan also spent time in Washington D.C., working for the National Center for State Courts and on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Dan continued to practice after returning to Iowa in 2012 with the Law firm Glazebrook, Moe, & Hurd, LLP. Along with his colleague Joseph Glazebrook and attorneys from Lambda Legal, Dan succeeded in bringing about important reforms to Iowa's badly outdated HIV laws.

Dan is survived by his lifelong friend, Randall James and his Godson Philip Hedges. He was preceded in death by his parents and his companion, Norman Jesse in 2000.

Dan will be laid to rest with his parents at Forest Cemetery in Oskaloosa, Iowa. A memorial service is being planned and will be announced.

Online condolences may be expressed at
Published in Des Moines Register on Oct. 23, 2016
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