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Madison Fairview Cemetery


This architect lived long enough to witness the power of the internet in pulling his early Modern designs from obscurity to renewed acclaim.     

Kenneth E. Johnson, Architect and Engineer, passed away on March 18 at his home.   After a 45-year practice as an architect in Atlanta, he and his wife Sylvia moved to Madison, GA, in 2004, where he restored and  lived contentedly in a Georgian-style cottage in the Historic District.  But his Modern design roots went deep, and he was pleased that his favorite designs survive.  These evoked his admiration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s principle of bringing Nature indoors, and include the Morrison-Coghlin residence in Buckhead, the C&S bank (Bank of America) on Roswell Rd., and the Central Congregational Church on Briarcliff Rd.  The demolition of his C&S bank on Moreland Avenue in 2011 occurred despite the advocacy of the Atlanta Preservation Center, as well as DOCOMOMO, whose members pursue the documentation and conservation of the Modern Movement in architecture and design.  The Georgia chapter’s website features a retrospective of his architecture ( 


His buoyant energy and optimism were always rewarded.  After volunteering for vocational training at Orlando High School to help the war effort in the 1940’s, he worked in the drafting room of Babcock Aircraft Company.  He enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Georgia Tech to study engineering.  Following active duty, he returned to Tech and received his degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1948.  He worked for a variety of firms as a licensed mechanical engineer, including Robert and Company and Toombs, Amisano & Wells, while going to night school at Tech’s College of Architecture.  He became a licensed architect in December 1955, and opened his private practice three weeks later.  He was 31 years old.  With a young family, he  was quick to accept his first commission.  A co-worker asked him to design a Modern house.  He was featured in Atlanta Magazine as “Young Man on the Go”, and his renovated bungalow in Home Park near Tech was  the first passive solar residence in Georgia.  He wrapped up his design career as chief designer for Johnson, Smith, Reagan, architects for the Ferst Center for the Arts and the Student Galleria at Georgia Tech. 


His quick humor could be counted on, even as he spent the last 18 years with chronic pain.  He courageously chose mental acuity over medication, thus many designs issued from his pen on a daily basis.  He always considered himself fortunate to share a 70 year friendship with the late Edward Allman, who partnered with him in a design business, The Alljohn Company, while they were students at Georgia Tech.  They shared the best off-campus digs available…the dirt floor basement of a shoe shop at 10th and Peachtree.  He and Ed “mooched” through Georgia on weekends, with the objective of not spending the dollar each tucked into his shoe.  Their travels can be verified in the pictorial history of Union County, with two young unidentified sailors visiting Blairsville in the ‘40s.   He was a founding member of the Cherokee Town Club in an era when business meetings had few choice venues. He co-founded the Passive Solar Society of Georgia, and was an early advocate for gray water use. 


He is survived by his wife, Sylvia Bryant Johnson; his daughters from a previous marriage, Scott Johnson (Jack Meadows) of Atlanta and Clare Johnson McFadden (Andrew) of Athens; four granddaughters, Katherine Sudberry, Julia Bellamy, Margaret Bellamy and Erin Setzer; and four great-grandchildren, Kenneth Lewis, Alexandra Dudley, Trevor Dudley, and Reece Sudberry.  He was preceded in death by members of a close and loving family, who made the trek from Hibbing, MN, to Orlando, FL, in 1937: parents Elvin and Sadie Johnson, who taught him how to build houses; sisters Lorraine Denton and Ella Trapnell, and brother and best friend, Richard C. Johnson, professor emeritus at Georgia Tech.  Other valued friends include Margaret Campbell Johnson, Sue Johnson, Willie Suggs and wonderful neighbors,  Betty and the late Tom Garrison. His siblings  blessed him with a retinue of close step children and grandchildren, and three nieces, Sandra Holmes, Diana Roman and Karen Shoffner. 


Ken’s best quip in recent months was “The only trouble with life is that it doesn’t end very well.”   His cherished wife and Gentiva Hospice’s attentive  staff  proved him wrong, as he died peacefully in his sleep at home.  Ken and his buddy Ed are buried a thousand miles apart, each with a dollar in his shoe.  A memorial service will be held later.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to DOCOMOMO US, Georgia Chapter, at Box #241, 931 Monroe Drive, Suite 102,  Atlanta, GA 30308.


Arrangements were handled by the Memorial Society of Georgia and Bridges Funeral Home of Athens.

From: The Atlanta Constitution  March 23, 2014 

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