George Johnson and Dudley Herman epitomized the ability to recognize weakness and turn it into strength. George was able to do this with at most consistentsy but often found some failure in the fact that his tactics were just a little too overbearing. Dudley could do the same and they both could turn a sow's ear into a silk purse but Dudley unlike George was maybe just a little too slippery.
Rick Johnson on the other hand could turn weakness into strength, make a silk purse out of sow's ear and do it with just a little touch of magic.
The following was a eulogy given by Judge Wilson had Rick Johnson's funeral in Gregory South Dakota.
RICK JOHNSON EULOGY
Clarence Darrow, the great trial lawyer of the first half of the last century, once said: 'Of the great flood of human life that is spawned across the face of the earth, rarely is there ever born a man.' I believe that this scarcity does not exist in this 'West River' area of South Dakota. Be that as it may, Rick Johnson was a man and a half!
I count it one of the luckiest days of my life when, thirty years ago, I became acquainted with the Johnson/Driscoll clan here in Gregory County, South Dakota. Over the years they have become close friends. To borrow words from John Adams, "They seized upon my heart.' I'm presumptuous enough to consider myself a part of their family, and they are gracious enough to allow me to make this claim.
Francie, as you know better than anyone else, your husband adored, loved and admired you. He was extremely proud of your accomplishments, and he liked to brag about them, but being the sort of fellow he was, he could not come to bring himself to do it directly; but he did it indirectly and in full measure. Rick reminded me of the German Lutheran they talk about down in Arkansas. He was crazy about his wife. He loved her so very much that he almost told her one time.
Rick Johnson demonstrated his love and friendship, but he was not one to say it directly.
Let me say a word or two about Francie Driscoll Johnson. When you go home tonight break out your Holy Writ, King James Version, or whichever. Open it to Proverbs and the other Books which speak of the worth and value of a good woman, a good wife and a good mother. When you read those words you will think that the Almighty had Francie Johnson in mind when they were written.
Francie, your husband was a character. I mean a CARE-ACT-TOR. Let me give you an example. Several years ago I was in the chambers of Judge Eisele down in Little Rock -- many of you will know Judge Eisele who has been up here to hunt -- we were getting ready to go our and make up a jury after he had heard some pretrial motions. The door to Judge Eisele's chambers swung open and his secretary said, "Mr. Wilson has an urgent call." I nearly fainted. I went to the phone and answered it. On the other end I heard Rick Johnson say, "Wilson, I just remembered the punch line to that joke I tried to tell you last fall." He laughed his deep belly laugh as I used some nonSunday School language on him and hung up.
What other lawyer -- nay, what other person -- do you know who would pull a stunt like this?
Diogenes, the ancient philosopher, lived in a one room hut by the sea. A friend of his,
who was an advisor to one of the princes, visited Diogenes one day at noon. Diogenes was preparing lentils for lunch. The friend said, 'Diogenes, if you would learn to get along with the princes you wouldn't have to learn to eat lentils.' Diogenes replied, "My friend, if you would learn to eat lentils you wouldn't have to get along with the princes." That was Rick Johnson. He did not laugh unless he was tickled.
He marched to the beat of his own drummer. I never hear the song "My Way" that I don't think of Rick Johnson.
Much has been said and written, and much will be said and written, about Rick's skill as a trial lawyer so I won't dwell on this subject.
Rick Johnson was the quintessential South Dakota man. There is something special about South Dakota and the people of South Dakota. I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it. A few years back Lisa Buche told me, "Don't you know -- it's a spiritual thing.' Perhaps this is true. I don't know. I'll leave this up to the preachers and poets. This much, however, I know full well. There is something very special and wonderful about South Dakota and its people, and I am honored to be here among you as we honor the memory of this great fellow.
Rick was, by any account, a first rate scholar of the law. He was an accomplished artist -- proof positive of this can be seen out at the lodge where we will gather this afternoon. His paintings and wood carvings are superb. He was widely and deeply read on a multitude of subjects. He had a burning curiosity about the natural world. Again, take a look at his exotic garden out by the lodge, particularly the multitude of
pepper plants. And he was one of the country's foremost authorities on pheasant preservation.
In all, it is entirely fair to say that Rick Johnson was an academy unto himself.
Francie, I know that you and your family know what the poet was talking about when he wrote about 'the darkest hour of the soul." I know that you know what Tennyson meant when he wrote about a departed friend:
But oh for the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still!
Let me close, however, with two lines from the beautiful eulogy Robert Ingersoll, delivered at the graveside of his beloved brother:
In the night of death, hope sees a star
And listening love can hear the rustle of wings.