William (Bill) W. Johnson BA LLB FSA Scot 1936 – 2005

It is with deep regret that we report the death on 23 December 2005 of Bill Johnson who was High Commissioner of Clan Donald Canada from 1998 to 2000.

Bill’s death was reported in the London Free Press of 24 December 2005:

Renowned lawyer dies By April Kemick, Free Press Reporter.

A “master” local defence lawyer known for his exceptional record in jury trials died yesterday at age 69.

Bill Johnson, a longstanding St. Thomas lawyer and community leader, died from complications after heart surgery at an Ottawa hospital.

“If I ever was in trouble. I would have hired him.” said Johnson’s long-time friend and colleague, Ernest Popovich, who referred to Johnson as a “master” of the jury trial.

“If you were lucky enough to have him represent you in a jury trial, you were almost sure to be acquitted.” Popovich said, “He was not only a lawyer, he was a great actor.”

Johnson was a “larger than life” figure who relied on dramatics to win over juries, said Justice Ted McGrath.

“He was always entertaining and he was great on cross-examination,” McGrath remembered. “He was the dean of the criminal law bar (in the St. Thomas area) for the last quarter-century.”

Another former colleague said Johnson’s winning record with juries put him on the map far beyond South-western Ontario.

“He might have had the most jury trials of any lawyer in Canada, and perhaps the winningest percentage,” said Justice David Little.

“There was nobody that matched him,” Little said of the Queen’s University grad who ran his own practice for more than three decades.

Friends said yesterday the burly man was also well known for his interests outside the justice system.

A longstanding Liberal supporter, Johnson helped on many campaigns and served as president of the Elgin Liberal party association several times, said Popovich.

The father of four was also involved in Junior B hockey in St. Thomas as administrator, coach and commentator. “Bill’s passing will leave an immeasurable void because he touched so many peoples’ lives,” Popovich said.

Extract from the Death Notice:

JOHNSON William W., at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, on Friday, December 23, 2005. William Johnson BA LLB FSA Scot in his 70th year, dearly loved husband of Patricia B. (Reid) Johnson. Dear father of Kimberley Johnson and her husband Norman Feaver, Craig Johnson and his wife Susan, Victoria Westaway and her husband Larry and Brooke Moore and her husband Michael, all of St. Thomas. Brother of Dr. Gary G. Johnson and his wife Gail of Ottawa and M. Cheryl and her husband Dr. Kenneth Muxlow of London. Loved grandfather of Andrew Reid Westaway, John MacIain Westaway, Tara Margaret Samantha Johnson and Angus William Johnson. Born in St. Thomas, August 9, 1936, he was the son of the late Orville C. Johnson and E. Yvonne (Stevenson) Johnson. He was a graduate of Queen’s University where he was active in politics and was a lineman with the Queen’s Golden Gaels Football Team. After graduation from Queen’s Law school, he articled with the law firm of Stafford Fanjoy Hennessey & Kempster. He founded the firm of William W. Johnson & Associates in St. Thomas. Active in the community, Bill had coached and scouted for the St Thomas Junior B Hockey Team and was a Past president of the Elgin Federal Liberal Association. He was a Past High Commissioner of Clan Donald Canada and a life member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was a proud charter member of P.I.G.S.