Tag Archives: Selden Hale

Another giant passes from the scene

Like any lawyer, Jerry Johnson knew the jokes about his profession.

He could recite them all, even though they were countless.

He could laugh at them, knowing full well that he really didn’t fit the mold.

The great man wasn’t brash. He wasn’t conceited. He wasn’t a fast-talker.

Jerry Johnson instead was a man of high honor, integrity, humility and if you were in a hurry to get a quick answer from him, well, forget about it. It took Johnson a while to get his point across. His drawl was as slow and fluid as they come.

Amarillo lost a gigantic figure in its legal community with Johnson’s death.

Me? I lost a friend, a great source for all things political and someone with whom I occasionally shared some political commonality.


Jerry was a dedicated Democrat. He cherished his friendship with, say, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson … to name perhaps the state’s most high-profile powerhouse Democratic couple. He also had friends on the other side of the aisle.

I recall attending an event in Johnson’s honor, commemorating his many years as a lawyer at the Underwood firm. Texas Comptroller John Sharp made the trip from Austin to salute Johnson. One dignitary couldn’t be there, but someone read a letter from him. It came from Karl Rove, the Republican political genius and architect of George W. Bush’s two successful campaigns for Texas governor and, oh yes, his two successful campaigns for president of the United States.

Democrat or Republican, they all respected and admired Jerry Johnson.

We’d have lunch on occasion and we’d go over the political doings of the day. He’d grouse about Republicans, praise Democrats. He actually asked my opinion on this or that. I’d give it to him and this wise and gentle man would actually listen — as in actually pay attention.

The Amarillo Globe-News named him Man of the Year in the 1990s and later included him in its list of the Panhandle’s most influential people.

He was a huge presence and was the personification of integrity and honor.

My favorite comment from those who remembered Johnson comes from Amarillo lawyer Selden Hale, who said: “If you had to pick a daddy and couldn’t pick your own, he would be the one I’d pick.”

Yep. Amarillo’s heart today has a huge hole in it.