Justice Byron Johnson, a singular character in Idaho public life, died Sunday at his home in Boise's Collister neighborhood.
Johnson was a baseball star at Boise High School, once striking out future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. He went on to Harvard and the practice of law, retiring from the court after 11 years in 1999. He also was a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1972.
Johnson quit wearing ties in court, wrote poetry, climbed mountains and was a part of the unusual culture of Idaho City, where he lived for many years with his wife, Judge Patricia Young.
I wrote a profile of Johnson in May, after interviewing him about his memoir, "Poetic Justice."
Young said Monday that her husband died about 1 a.m. Sunday with two of his four children at his side.
"Blessedly, it was peaceful," Young said.
Johnson died of cancer of the jaw, which he fought tenaciously. "He's a tough guy and he didn't want to let go, but he did and it was very nice," Young said. She complimented the hospice care provided by Life's Doors.
Johnson will be remembered on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Jan. 6, at the Barber Events Center in Barber Park. The time has yet to be firmly set, but it will be in the afternoon, Young said.
"He didn't want a memorial service, but he did want a wake," Young said. "He wanted a really good party. We're going to have good whiskey there, and good food."
Johnson, a former board president at The Cabin, asked that donations in his name be made to the Boise-based literary center that operates statewide.