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LEONARD OSCAR JOHNSTON Monday, June 22, 1998 Norman Richmond Bookseller, community activist. Born in Toronto on May 7, 1918; died of heart disease in Toronto on April 30, 1998, aged 79. BORN to parents who had come from Jamaica in 1890, Lennie Johnston was a working-class hero of the African-Canadian community. His creation, Third World Books and Crafts, was not only one of the first such stores in North America but was an important intellectual and cultural centre. Lennie's interest in music marked his life and began early. He was one-third of what he considered Toronto's first black vocal group. Begun in the thirties, the Onyx Boys consisted of Lennie, his brother Harold and Fred Wilmott; they sang arrangements of the popular songs of the day, such as Jimmy Lunceford's Linger Awhile. They performed on the radio, but Mr. Johnston remembered, "We never got a dime." He also was part of what he called "Toronto's first disco service" in the Depression, playing records for dances at the Garvey Hall on College Street. Lennie Johnston spent much of his working life with the Canadian Pacific Railway, while he read voraciously and acquired a deep understanding of African-Canadian, African and world history. His dream was to start a bookstore, and he saved $16 a month toward that goal. In 1968, Lennie and his wife Gwendolyn opened Third World Books and Crafts on Walton Street in Toronto. It later moved to Bay Street and still later to its current home on Bathurst Street. At its prime, Third World was the best of its type in North America, attracting everyday people as well as international celebrities. When Quincy Jones was doing research for the television mini-series Roots,he came to Third World Books for material. Later Michael Jackson and several of the Jackson brothers made purchases at the store; Mr. Johnston would often joke about Michael still owing him money. The former Jamaican prime minister Michael Manley launched his cricket book at the store. Jazz greats such as Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Jayne Cortez and Randy Weston and actor/director Ivan Dixon came to Third World. Mr. Johnston's daughter Carol recalled, "My father knew everybody -- stars like Joe Williams . . . the Mills Brothers and Paul Robeson." The sounds of B. B. King, Bobby Bland, Dinah Washington could often be heard in the background at Third World Books, but it was the joyous, authentic, zealy, zesty sounds of jazz that Lennie Johnston turned to most. The saxophonist John Coltrane and trumpeter Miles Dewey Davis were at the top of his playlist. While Third World was a place where open discussions were encouraged, Lennie would not tolerate criticism of Coltrane or Davis. Third World Books was a place for people of African ancestry and others to learn about Africa and the African people's many gifts to the world. But Lennie Johnston and his wife also allowed the community to hold public meetings and classes in Afrocentricity, socialism and karate. He was a supporter of Fidel Castro, the Black Panther Party and Third World movements. His bookstore was one of the few that stocked Lenin's State and Revolution, the Bible and the Koran under the same roof. Politically, Mr. Johnston was a member of the Canadian Communist Party for decades but never lost touch with the black community. After leaving the CCP, he joined forces with the Afro-American Progressive Association (Toronto's first black-power organization), the Malcolm X Tribute Committee and the Toronto chapter of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. Among his many awards was one from the Young Adults of the Black Community honouring him "for outstanding dedication to providing generations of Canadians with knowledge, truth and inspiration." In the 1980s a group of Torontonians and others endowed the R-row of seats in Roy Thomson Hall in memory of Paul Robeson. Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and James Earl Jones were among the project's sponsors. Third World and Crafts was among the organizations and people who put up $1,000 for a seat. Johnston explained why his seat inscription read Third World and not his family name: "Paul Robeson spoke for the oppressed people of the world, most of whom are in the Third World. I think it's important that they honour him and not me as an individual." Johnston leaves his widow, Gwendolyn, his daughter Carol McGrath, his son Clayton Alexander, granddaughter Abena and grandson Parker Ali. Norman Richmond is a journalist and a radio and television producer.