Falls Church News-Press owner-editor Nicholas F. Benton was the recipient of an extraordinary gift from a Falls Church attorney concluding a 53-year career last week. At the annual “Meet the Press” open house in the News-Press office, a large gathering witnessed the presentation by retiring attorney Lee Farnum Johnson, Jr.
The gift is an original H. Daumier lithograph that had originally been a gift to Johnson’s father, who had also been the owner of a weekly newspaper in Colorado. Included on the official Daumier registry, the cartoon-like numbered depiction, hand painted in water color, is called “The Charitable Newspaper.”
It shows a newspaperman trying to sell a subscription to a skeptical-looking man and its caption translates, “Yes, Monsieur…by paying 24 Francs per year you will receive our newspaper…plus 75 volumes…six albums…the portrait of our director…23 concert tickets…three packs of cigars and a jar with gherkins.”
Daumier’s lithographs are famous for poking fun at the establishment, surviving through waves of political repression in France in his era. Most of them first appeared in newspapers or magazines. His newspaper depiction showed how hard it was to stay in business under the conditions of the times. It first appeared in La Caricature in 1842.
Johnson, who began his law practice over Ware’s Pharmacy at the corner of Broad and Washington streets in 1954, and occupied his current office across from City Hall on N. Little Falls since 1960, worked for the Fairfax Standard newspaper in high school and knew the owners of the Falls Church Echo, a newspaper that lasted for about seven years in the 1950s.
He said he’d been following the News-Press carefully since its founding in 1991 and hailed Benton for “doing a great job with the paper.”
But he said he didn’t have “ink in his veins” like his father, who first owned a newspaper in the western slope of Colorado in the 1920s before coming to Washington, D.C., to work for a U.S. Senator from Colorado. His father returned to Colorado to buy another newspaper, and finally wound up in Washington for good with a job in the Roosevelt administration.
When the family moved to Sleepy Hollow in 1940, Johnson Jr. attended the the Madison Grade School on N. Washington St., Jefferson High School on Cherry Street and the Falls Church High School on Hillwood Avenue (the current site of the Whittier Park townhouse development). All three schools have since been demolished. He was class president and president of the Honor Society in high school, graduating in 1947.
After graduating from the University of Colorado he got his law degree from George Washington University in 1954. He was a Democratic Party activist, “determined to help free the party from control by the Byrd machine,” he wrote. He was also president of various civic associations and is an active Rotarian.
In 2004, he was honored by the City of Falls Church for reaching the milestone of 50 years operating a business in the City. He and his wife, Lynne, who have two children and two grandchildren, will depart next week for a retirement community in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, south of Denver. They will be near the long-held family mountain retreat in Buffalo Creek.