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April 13, 2018

Contractor, civil engineer Larry Johnson dies at 93

Journal Construction Editor


Larry Johnson was all about volunteering in the community and promoting education.

In a 2003 guest article in the DJC, Diane Kinman asked Johnson what makes a successful construction leader: “Community service. I'm on several local and statewide boards and advisory committees. One of my proudest achievements is that I helped organize fundraising and building of an Olympic-size pool in Kirkland. It's our duty to do something for the community we live in. If everyone did, our world would be a better place to live.”

Johnson, a founder of Prime Construction and the AGC Education Foundation, died March 30 at the age of 93.

Johnson told the DJC in 1999 that his interest in construction came from his father, who immigrated from Sweden in 1892 as an apprentice carpenter and later opened a contracting business in Bellingham.

After graduating from Bellingham High School in 1942, Johnson briefly attended Western Washington College and then joined the Navy's civil engineering program at the University of Washington, earning a bachelor's degree.

He was an ensign in the Navy, testing sonar on a patrol boat in the South Atlantic after World War II.

Johnson returned to the UW and earned a master's degree in civil engineering. He taught structural engineering to architects while in school and later taught classes in estimating at the UW and Edmonds Community College.

An excerpt from Johnson's life story that he wrote in 2012 said he worked as a building inspector for the Seattle School District and then three general contractors.

In 1960, he formed Prime Construction with George Buck and Dave McKee.

Prime built office buildings, prisons, apartments and about 100 schools. Some of the larger projects included the Monroe prison, Metro's south operating base and Woodinville High School.

In 1999, Johnson was inducted into the University of Washington Construction Hall of Fame.

Johnson told the DJC that his favorite organization was the Associated General Contractors: “I met and associated with some very wonderful people at the AGC.”

Johnson served many roles at the AGC, and was president in 1980. He even designed and built the fountain at the lower entrance to the AGC Building on Lake Union. The Presidents' Waterfall honors past and future AGC presidents. He also designed and built the brackets that hold the gold “AGC” letters near the top of the building.

One of Johnson's biggest accomplishments at the AGC was helping start the AGC Education Foundation in 1980. The foundation promotes and develops construction careers through education and training.

“I would like to see all people involved in the construction industry have a greater effort in education,” Johnson told the DJC. “We will turn out far better people as a result of it.”

Johnson also was known for his work in the community. He coached Little League and helped build a baseball park in Kirkland. Using donated labor, he directed the construction of two grandstands, a concession stand and meeting room for $15,000.

In 1997, Johnson established the Larry Johnson/Prime Construction Endowment Fund, which is administered by the Education Foundation. Now the foundation has created the Larry Johnson Memorial Fund, which also will award annual scholarships to college students studying construction. Donations can be made at https://tinyurl.com/LarryFund.

A celebration of Johnson's life will be held at 1 p.m. April 28 at Acacia Memorial Park & Funeral Home north of Seattle.


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.