- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - Longtime Alabama political reporter Bob Johnson, who retired from The Associated Press nearly two years ago, has died. He was 66.

Johnson died Friday at his son’s home in Gardendale, likely from a massive stroke, his daughter-in-law Becky Johnson said Saturday.

Johnson spent 14 years at the AP before retiring in 2014, but he had been a fixture in Alabama journalism since the 1970s. During his career, he worked as a statehouse reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser and as a reporter and editor at the former Birmingham Post-Herald.

“Bob covered just about everything during his long, distinguished journalism career,” said AP’s Deep South Editor Jim Van Anglen. “He earned a reputation as being fair, and getting it right was so important to him.

“But what I will always remember is his big smile,” Van Anglen added. “He loved his family and Alabama football and the L.A. Dodgers. He did his job and lived his life with class, grace and dignity. He was one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever met.”

His kindness was also the first thing that came to mind for those who worked alongside him.

“He was just a fine newsman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Birmingham-based AP reporter Jay Reeves, who had known Johnson since his days at the Post-Herald.

“Bob’s trademark was writing human interest stories,” said retired AP political writer Phillip Rawls, who worked alongside Johnson for many years at the state Capitol in Montgomery. “He could find interesting people in any location, and he could write their stories in a way that captured readers’ attention through the final paragraph.”

Kim Chandler, who worked alongside Johnson at the Capitol and later joined the AP, remembered Johnson as “a talented journalist and an even better person.”

“While he loved writing about politics, he also had a passion for telling stories of real people, happy, sad or quirky,” she said. “He loved nothing more than getting out in the back roads of Alabama.”

Johnson enjoyed acting in community theater productions and liked to travel, often sending postcards back to his colleagues from faraway locales. He loved his three children dearly and doted on his grandchildren, always eager to share stories of their latest exploits with anyone who would listen.

Becky Johnson said that when her own father died shortly after she married Johnson’s son, Robbie, about 19 years ago, Johnson comforted her and treated her like his own daughter. Johnson had been living with his son and daughter-in-law and their children the last several months.

“That was awesome for them and for him to get to spend all that time together, so I’m really glad they had that time together,” she said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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