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Familiar Spokesman at Hawthorne City Council Meetings Dies at 78

January 11, 1987

HAWTHORNE — Rea E. Johnson, whose fight to save his home in the 1950s turned him into an avid City Council gadfly, has died.

Johnson, 78, died Dec. 31 at Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center from respiratory failure after a bout with emphysema. He is survived by a half-brother, Joseph McGuigan of Laguna Niguel.

A 65-year city resident, Johnson attended nearly every City Council and Planning Commission meeting and was often seen perusing city files and copying documents, officials said.

"He was always sincere and congenial," said Mayor Betty Ainsworth. "He never hurt anybody."

He spoke slowly, asking ponderous questions that often irritated council members and residents in the audience, but he was always polite and rarely was cut short, city officials said.

His interests in city government began in the 1950s when the city threatened to condemn the dilapidated house where he and his mother lived, according to friends of Johnson.

At the suggestion of former Councilman Robert Reeves, Johnson and his mother attended a council meeting and persuaded the council to hold off demolition until the Johnsons could build a new home on the back of the property on 133rd Street. Johnson lived in that house until his death.

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