'Heart, soul' of NSW Labor dead at 87

NSW Labor party stalwart Johno Johnson, who served in the state's upper house, has died aged 87. (AAP)

NSW Labor party stalwart Johno Johnson, who served in the state's upper house, has died in Sydney aged 87.

Johno Johnson, described as "the heart, soul and sinews" of the NSW Labor party, has died.

The former president of the state's Legislative Council died in Sydney aged 87.

Mr Johnson, a long-time stalwart of the ALP, served in the NSW upper house from 1978 to 1991 and won respect from all sides of politics.

Born in Murwillumbah in 1930, the trade union official entered parliament in 1976.

He was a staunch Catholic and made a papal knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2006. In 2015 Pope Francis promoted him to the top echelon of the award.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten on Wednesday described Mr Johnson as "the heart, soul and sinews of NSW Labor".

"We have all lost a brother. Rest in Peace Johno Johnson," Mr Shorten tweeted.

NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley said Mr Johnson has been an "enduring presence in NSW Labor" for more than 60 years.

"Johno was a mentor, counsellor and confidante to half a dozen generations of Labor party activists," Mr Foley said in a statement.

"Through all of his life, he believed in, and worked for, the principle of the common good, the dignity of labour and the preferential option for the poor."

The Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher described Mr Johnson as a remarkable man who had a profound influence on all those he encountered.

"Inspired by the great loves of his life: the Catholic Church, the Australian Labor Party, his beloved wife Pauline and their family and, finally, his love for Australia, he made an outstanding contribution both to public life and the Church," Archbishop Fisher said.

"The archdiocese especially appreciates his contribution as chairman of The Catholic Weekly for so many years and the way in which he spearheaded its return to profitability.

"Others have remarked that there are too few people like Johno in public life today. As I reflect on the life of this extraordinary Australian I can only agree."

A state funeral for Mr Johnson will be held in St Mary's Cathedral on Friday August 18.

Source AAP

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