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Marvin "Mike" Johnson

1918 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Marvin "Mike" Johnson Obituary
Johnson, Marvin "Mike"
died on August 27, 2016. He was 97 years old. Mike was born on October 6, 1918, in Idabel, Oklahoma. He grew up in Tulsa and became a proud member of the Russlers, a group of local boys who boxed, climbed buildings they shouldn't have, and talked of the lives they were going to build. He was accepted to Harvard University for college, but amid the Depression, his family asked him to remain closer to home. He attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman instead. Inspired by Clarence Darrow and confident in his ability to make his own way, Mike moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he attended law school at the University of Arizona. That would turn out to be the second-best decision of his life. It was there that he would make his best decision-meeting and marrying the love of his life, Patricia Thomas Johnson, following a six-week courtship that he always felt was slightly too long. Pat, who turned 94 earlier this month and lives in Tucson, was by Mike's side when he died. After graduating from law school in 1946, Mike moved to Phoenix and eventually opened his own law office. When the phone company refused to run a line from the street to his office, he sued it-and got that phone line. Mike would go on to build an extremely successful law practice in which he represented individuals and corporations throughout the United States. He didn't believe in charging clients by the hour, a practice he believed has done much to erode the public's respect of the legal profession. He took on enormous companies. He defended accused murderers. He was courageous in the face of fear, and he rarely lost. His integrity was impeccable. Mike finally retired in 2010. By that time, his secretary, Donna McAvoy, had worked for him for 55 years. Mike is widely considered to be one of the greatest trial lawyers who ever practiced in Arizona. He was a maverick, to be sure. He would wear red socks during jury trials and hike them up when the other side was speaking, so that the jurors might focus on his socks instead of his opponent's argument. Once, while standing to read a two-hour transcript to a jury, he became weary, so he climbed up and sat crossed-legged on the counsel table. That felt much more natural than asking for a recess. No one could talk to a jury like Mike Johnson. Mike consumed life in great big gulps. He loved dogs, and his home always included 1-3 dogs from at least 2 dozen breeds in 90 of his 97 years. His favorites were Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Norfolk Terriers. He and Pat traveled around the world. He owned more than 300 cars during his life , often to Pat's chagrin. He once bought a fellow lawyer's car, so that that lawyer could start funding his run for public office. The lawyer's name was Barry Goldwater. But as Mike's family will tell you, the most beloved car he ever owned was a Volkswagen Thing, on which three generations of Johnsons learned to drive up in Flagstaff, thankfully far from the madding crowd. His favorite historical figure was Winston S. Churchill. His favorite authors were H. L. Mencken, W. Somerset Maugham, and Samuel Johnson. He learned from reading Ernest Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon" that during a bull fight, the area in the ring to which the bull would always retreat to feel safe and to rest was called la querencia. That became the name of their second home in Flagstaff, "Querencia," where he and Pat often retreated on weekends and in the summers to rest and recoup. But his favorite thing to do was spend time with his beloved family. In addition to his loving wife Pat, Mike is survived by his two daughters, Patricia Doerr (Dr. John) and Susan Johnson; his son Thomas Johnson; seven grandchildren; and ten great-grandchildren. His family will miss his Irish smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes, his beautiful singing (songs such as "I'll Be Seeing You", "Easter Parade", "Old Dan Tucker", "Out in Arizona Where the Bad Men Are"), his dramatic poetry recitations (including "The Cremation of Sam McGee", "The Night Before Christmas", "Annabel Lee", "Casey at the Bat", and "Jabberwocky"), his compelling true stories of his adventures in and out of the courtroom, and his delicious buttermilk and tomato pancakes. They will also cherish the many letters he sent them over the years. No one in the history of the world could write a letter like Mike Johnson. To leave a condolence or to share a memory please visit www.VistosoFH.com Vistoso Funeral Home, Oro Valley, AZ. 520-544-2285
Published in The Arizona Republic on Sept. 11, 2016
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