Orrin Wendell |
HARLINGEN, TX. --
Orrin Wendell Johnson, 93, of Harlingen went to join our Lord and Savior on May 16, 2014.
Orrin Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota Nov. 7, 1920; the son of Elmer G. Johnson, an early developer of farmland in the Valley, and Lydia Carlson Johnson. The family moved to Texas in 1933. He graduated from Harlingen High School and went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.
The dropping of the bomb on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 meant that Orrin, like many other young men of his generation, graduated early and in his case, joined the Marine Corps. He fought during the better part of the Pacific Campaign, serving with the Third Marines at Guam, Guadalcanal, Bouganville, and Iwo Jima. He was decorated with the Purple Heart for wounds he received. A captain when the war finished, he rose to the rank of Major in the Marine Corps reserves before leaving the service.
After the war, he returned to the University of Texas for Law School. While at Law School he was elected Student Body President of the Law School, served as associate editor for the Law Review and became a member of Chancellors, Order of the Coif and Phi Delta Phi. He graduated cum laude.
He began his law practice in Harlingen in 1947 with Karl Gibbon and practiced law in our community his entire life, later founding the law firm of Johnson and Davis. In later years he served of counsel to the firm of Rodriguez, Colvin and Chaney. He was active with the Texas Bar Foundation, serving as Secretary, Vice-Chairman, and Chairman of the Fellows and as a Trustee of the Foundation. He was named a Sustaining Life Fellow of the Foundation. He also was honored as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trust and Estate Attorneys, the Texas Academic Trust and Probate Lawyers, and as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He was elected as a Vice-President of the Texas Junior Bar Association, as Director and then President of the Cameron County Bar Association. He also served as a Director of the State Bar of Texas and in 1982 was elected its President.
An active member and officer on various State Bar Committees, most notably the Ethics Committee, he received numerous awards for outstanding contributions to the practice of law, including the Frank Scurlock Award in 1983, the President's Award in 1986, and the Lola Wright Award in 1989. In 1998, he was honored as an outstanding Fifty Year Lawyer by the State Bar Foundation.
He was a great believer in public service, and in addition to pro bono legal work, he served his community as a Director the Advisory Board of the Valley Baptist Hospital, as a Mason, and was active in his church, Wesley United Methodist of Harlingen. He also served as a Director, Trustee and President of the Board for the Marine Military Academy, which he helped to found. He was recognized as a Holland M. Smith Associate and Trustee Emeritus by MMA. He also was one of the primary founders of the Good Government League, a body designed to monitor and eliminate corruption in County Government. In 1981, he was honored in Washington D.C. by Common Cause as one of six recipients across the nation for their Public Service Award. He also served on the National Board of F.A.I.R. In more recent years, he was a member the Board of Loaves and Fishes. He also served his fellow man constantly in other quiet ways with financial contributions, with expertise, energy and time.
In 1950, while on vacation in Paris he met the love of his life, beautiful Patsy Coons of Atlanta, Georgia. They were married on April 2, 1951. Four children soon followed. He delighted in his children and later in his grandchildren and eventually in his great-grandchildren. On trips abroad, he insisted that his children had to accompany them. Above all, he loved to take all his family and his friends on fishing trips, whether here in South Texas or frequently up in the northern part of Canada. He was always happiest with a fishing pole in his hands, surrounded by people he loved.
In addition to his legacy as a loving father, he left us with a wonderful gift of Christian faith. He was able to quote great passages of the Bible from memory at the appropriate time. He provided his family with a marvelous example of how a Christian thinks, acts, and speaks. We are all grateful for such a role model and witness.
He is survived by his wife, Patsy, his children, Forrest Johnson of Oregon, Wendell and Alice Johnson of Harlingen, Carol and Ed Proctor of Fort Worth and Michael and Laura Urbis of Brownsville. He is also survived by his grandchildren Christopher Johnson, Grace and Michael Benes, Andrew Johnson, Drexel Proctor, Carolyn Urbis, Scott Urbis and Audrey Urbis as well as two great-grandchildren Pavlina and Santiago Benes. The family wishes to express their deep gratitude and appreciation to Arnie Castaneda, a special caregiver and friend and to Dr. Bruce Leibert.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, May 19th at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1406 E. Austin Ave, Harlingen, TX 78550.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Loaves and Fishes, 514 South E. Street in Harlingen; or to the Marine Military Academy, 320 Iwo Jima Blvd in Harlingen; or to Wesley United Methodist Church.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the care of Buck Ashcraft Funeral Home. You are invited to sign the online guestbook at www.buckashcraft.com.
Published in Valley Morning Star on May 18, 2014