Long Island’s veteran lawmaker, the former State Sen. Owen Johnson, who spent 40 years in public service until his retirement in 2012, has died at the age of 85, it was announced today.
“Owen Johnson was beloved by his constituents and respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including eight governors who served during his career in the Senate,” said Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the co-leader of the State Senate whose Republican majority counted on Johnson’s continuing support.
Johnson had represented the people of Suffolk County in the State Senate from 1972 to 2012, when he finally decided not to run for re-election. At the time he was facing a challenge from long-time Democratic legislator, Rick Montano (D-Brentwood). Instead, Assemb. Phil Boyle became the Republican candidate and won the Senate seat.
“Owen Johnson’s leadership helped countless citizens far beyond the boundaries of his senate district,” said Sen. Boyle (R-Bay Shore). “I am proud to say that Owen was not just my senator but he was my mentor and friend. He will be sorely missed.”
Up in Albany, Johnson, or “O.J.” as he was known by his colleagues and friends, was the long-time leader of the Senate Finance Committee.
“He was a staunch advocate for a state spending cap, which we have strictly adhered to in the past four enacted budgets,” said Skelos in his statement. “Senator Johnson sponsored the original legislation to create the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and the first bill to provide drivers with an insurance discount or a reduction in points for successfully completing a defensive driving course, among many other legislative accomplishments.”
Back in his district, Johnson was known for his helping his constituents with their concerns, as well as promoting tourism, strengthening the local economy and boosting the marine fishing industry, as well as preserving the area’s natural resources, which included hosting his annual beach clean-up days.
Johnson attended West Babylon Grade School and Babylon High School, according to his official bio, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps and then graduated from Hofstra College in 1956.
He reportedly died of natural causes, at home with his family, according to his former chief of staff, Rory Whelan.
“Owen Johnson left an indelible mark on the Senate and forged a legacy of extraordinary service to the people of Suffolk County,” said Skelos.
He is survived by his wife Christel; two children, Owen and Christen; his son-in-law Dan Tymann; and his granddaughters Eliza and Scarlett.