Des Moines Attorney Dan Johnston Named 2014 Louise Noun Award Winner

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
February 27, 2014 12:00 am

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Des Moines, IA – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Iowa is proud to announce that the 2014 Louise Noun Award will be presented to Dan L. Johnston.

The Noun award is named after Louise Noun, the distinguished Des Moines activist, philanthropist and former president of the ACLU of Iowa Board of Directors. It is given to those who have made significant contributions or displayed uncommon courage on behalf of civil liberties in the state. Dan Johnston richly fits that description.

Johnston has a long and impressive legacy in civil rights and constitutional law. Currently Of Counsel with the Des Moines law firm of Glazebook, Moe, Johnston, and Hurd, Johnston has served as the Polk County attorney, as a state legislator, and an ACLU of Iowa staff attorney and member of the ACLU national board. However, it was his role as legal counsel in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Tinker v. the Des Moines Independent School District in 1969 that earned him a place in the free speech and constitutional law history books. That case upheld the right of Des Moines students who wore black armbands to support a ceasefire in the Vietnam War and were suspended from school. The decision blazed the path for increased student free speech for decades to come.

Through all his work, Johnston has been a steadfast supporter of criminal justice reform with an eye to defending those who are least able to defend themselves.

Johnston served in the legislature as a representative for Polk County starting in 1966. He was the Democratic nominee for Iowa Attorney General in 1968. In 1975, he went to work with the National Center for State Courts, based in Washington, D.C. In 1990, he was the general counsel for the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

A graduate of the Drake University Law School, Johnston was born in Montezuma, Iowa. He met his life partner, Norman Jesse, at Drake and the two both served in the Iowa Legislature. They spent more than 30 years together before Jesse passed away in 2000.

Consistent with his personal life and his civil liberties convictions, Johnston has been an advocate for LGBT rights, and was on the board of directors of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center in New York from 1987 to 1990.

“Dan has had an extremely distinguished career,” said ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Ben Stone. “Besides his well-known role in one our nation’s watershed free speech cases, he as remained committed to the promotion of justice in many other ways as well. It’s our pleasure to be able to recognize his enormous contribution.”

Johnston said he is “especially honored to receive this award because of the great respect I had for Louise Noun, who was my friend.” Johnston and Noun were on the ACLU Board of Directors together for many years and shared many civil liberties victories together.

Johnston will receive the award at the ACLU of Iowa’s annual dinner on Saturday, May 3, starting at 5:00 p.m. at the University Club in Iowa City.

Visit for more information and to register online. Or email or call 515-243-3576, ext. *813.

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