OBITUARY

Harold Franklin Johnson

February 7, 1929May 25, 2021
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Harold Franklin Johnson was born on February 7, 1929, the son of Rueben Robert Johnson and Thelma Moore Johnson, both deceased, and the younger brother of Robert Cedric Johnson, also deceased. The family resided at 389 South Royal Street in Jackson, TN., a section of town known as “Irish Town,” where railroad workers of Scotch-Irish descent settled in after WWI.

Harold is survived by his wife of 68 years, Patricia Lee (Patsy) Lanier Johnson; his four daughters, Archie Ann Taylor (Bruce); Leigh Milam and her children, Jennifer Milam Lankford (Brent) and William Johnson "Bill" Milam (Roberta); Judy Baskin (Mike) and son, Bryson Baskin; Carol Pearson (Jeff) and their children, Hank, Arch, and Perry Pearson; niece Irma Katherine "Kitty" Willis; nephew, Burt Johnson; two great grandchildren, William Walton "Walt" Milam and Catherine Hall Lankford; and step-grandson, Stephen Milam (Jacy) and their children, Story and Shep.

Harold attended Jackson High School, where he played football under Coaches Tury Oman and Fred Delay, both State of Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Coaches, and basketball under Tury Oman. Harold earned honors as an All Southern and All State Guard in football and All State Basketball and was highly recruited by football legends, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Wallace Wade, Red Sanders, Frank Howard, Allyn McKeen and Harry Mehre, and by the legendary basketball coach, Adolph Rupp. He chose to play football under General Robert Reese "Bob" Neyland at the University of Tennessee (UT).

At UT, Harold lettered as a sophomore at guard and blocking back; however, after his third knee operation in the spring of his junior year, Harold, was no longer able to play these positions. Still considered a valuable member of the team, he served as a member of the kicking team. General Neyland promised Harold a scholarship of five years, rather than the usual four years, to enable Harold to finish law school. General Neyland added Harold to his coaching staff in the fall of 1949, and Harold participated as a player-coach on both the 1949 and 1950 University of Tennessee National Championship Team.

During law school, Harold was introduced to the beautiful Patsy Lanier of Murfreesboro, TN, which led to a marriage of 68 years. (Most of Harold and Patsy's friends refer to Patsy as “Saint Patsy.”) Harold and Patsy had four daughters: Ann, who recently retired as a supervisory counsel with the FDIC in Washington, D.C.; Leigh, Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court for Henderson County, TN in Lexington; Judy, a nurse practitioner with the Cardiology Department at the Jackson Clinic in Jackson, TN; and Carol, Deputy General Counsel with TruGreen in Memphis, TN. Harold and Patsy have six grandchildren: Jennifer and Bill Milam; Hank, Arch, and Perry Pearson; and Bryson Baskin; and two great-grandchildren, William Walton "Walt" Milam and Catherine Hall Lankford.

With General Neyland's recommendation, Harold became a Southeastern Conference basketball official at the age of 24. Harold officiated Southeastern Conference Basketball for 20 years, and also officiated in the Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley Conferences. As a Southeastern Conference Basketball official, Harold officiated numerous holiday and NCAA tournaments, including the Kentucky Invitational, the Sugar Bowl Basketball Tournament, the Gator Bowl Basketball Tournament, NCAA division playoffs and the NCAA College Division Finals. At the age of 25, Harold became a member of the Southeastern Conference Football Officials Association as an Umpire. Harold officiated all of the major Bowl games, except the Rose Bowl, for which Southeastern Conference Football Officials were ineligible. He officiated twice in each of the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Orange Bowl games; the Gator Bowl three times; and the Liberty Bowl, Blue Bonnet Bowl, the Sun Bowl, and the Senior Bowl. In his last game of the Senior Bowl in 1990, Harold officiated all six positions. Harold then served as an Observer/Supervisor of the Football Officiating for three years.

Harold, with his best friend, A.C. "Butch" Lambert, officiated both Southeastern Conference Football and Basketball for 30 years and were the only two officials to serve as President of both the Southeastern Conference Football Officials Associating and the Southeastern Conference Basketball Officials Association. When he retired from the SEC in 1990, Harold’s career with the SEC had spanned 33 years, longer than the tenure of any other SEC official.

Harold was inducted into the Jackson-Madison County Sports Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, where he served as President and was a Board Member for 20 years.

In 1952, after graduating from the UT School of Law, Harold became a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, and began his practice associated with Roger Murray, Sr. and later with both Roger Murray, Sr. and Roger Murray, Jr., in the law firm of Murray, Murray, and Johnson. Harold was engaged in the general practice of law in both the State and Federal Courts until his death in 2021. Harold served as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Jackson and as City Attorney for 19 years under the tenures of Mayor Bob Conger and Commissioners R.E. "Tobe" Bailey, Ben Langford, and Johnny Parham.

Harold enjoyed traveling throughout the United States. In 1984, Harold officiated a football game in Los Angeles, CA, between the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University football . Harold and Patsy decided to drive to California and explore the other side of the Mississippi River. This began the couple’s annual driving tour of the United States and Canada that continued until 2020.

At age 90, while attending a retirement party for a fellow attorney, Harold was asked when he planned to retire. He announced to his colleagues that his retirement party would be held at George A. Smith and Sons Funeral Home.

Harold's “retirement party” will consist of a period of visitation from 10 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 29, 2021 at the North Chapel of George A. Smith and Sons Funeral Home, followed by a graveside service at Ridgecrest Cemetery.

The following individuals will serve as Honorary Pallbearers, Jerry Ward, Dr. Kippy Miller, Chancellor James F. Butler, Michael Tabor, Frank Robins, and Mary Jo Middlebrooks.

The service will be officiated by Rev. Paul Clayton.

The family will honor Harold’s request that the "Tennessee Alma Mater" be played at his funeral service.

Services

  • Visitation with Friends and Loved Ones

    Saturday, May 29, 2021

  • The Graveside Service

    Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memories

Harold Franklin Johnson

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Mary Jo Middlebrooks

June 1, 2021

There are no words adequate to describe Harold Johnson. I first met him while I was still in law school. One Saturday he took me to the courthouse (when lawyers had keys so they could work in the Register's Office after hours) and showed me how he ran a title search.

The next time I saw him, I had taken a default judgement in Judge Holt's court and was exiting the courtroom. Harold (arriving late) stopped me, and told me he represented the Defendant. I told him I had already taken a default. At that point, he made the mistake of calling me "hon"...........I then (in a too loud voice) told him off in my best feminist outrage. Harold replied in kind.
Unknown to me, Judge Holt had stopped his proceedings and the entire courtroom overheard our exchange.

Over the years, we learned how to avoid needling each other, and became loyal colleagues. Neither of us backed down in our representation of our clients, but we enjoyed a warm friendship.

I found him to be a hard working attorney who was proud of the profession and was always prepared. He was a man of his word, and would not allow a client to lie (and indeed was upset when anyone did).

As a friend, he shared so many of his wonderful stories about the practice of law, his family and, of course, UT football. While everyone knows he was by far the greatest VOL fan in this area, he was still honest about the sport. After the Razorbacks joined this conference, they lost a game to Tennessee after a bad referee call. Harold was the first to say that they should have won the game. THAT was Harold Johnson.

I will miss his verbose pleadings, his quick wit and his ability to tell a great story. We are lessened by his absence, but will always carry him in our hearts.

Linda Rogers

May 29, 2021

Was glad to have a good friend like Harold, he was always there for me , may not tell me what I wanted to hear, but he was always right , he will be missed. And Jackson has lost a great lawyer and a good man , praying for all the family, especially Bill , since he work along side of him everyday , they made one heck of a team .God Bless🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️

Machelle Daniel-Hall

May 29, 2021

I met Harold 21 years ago as my divorce attorney & it began a friendship that I will forever be grateful for. I knew I could trust him to be honest & fight for the good for me & my son. His love for practicing law, UT football, his wife & family was evident. He had the BEST stories & I spent many afternoons listening to them. Harold you left a legacy & memories that will forever live on.

Mary Jo Middlebrooks

May 28, 2021

From Cathy Clayton:

For many years Harold would call me at work. He wouldn’t identify himself because he didn’t have to – I always knew it was him the second he started talking. We talked about many things and he always treated me with respect and asked me questions about legal issues. I always felt good about our profession after talking to Harold. He was a lifelong learner. Harold fought hard in court and sometimes would get a little worked up. He was brutally honest when someone didn’t do what he thought was right. One day he told me he was so mad at another lawyer that he wanted to punch him. He said he knew he could get in a good first punch but had just had hip surgery and wasn’t sure he could get back up if he was knocked down.

Mary Jo Middlebrooks

May 28, 2021

From Jane Jarvis:

The only time I ever saw Harold speechless was one cold rainy December day when we were trying a case in Chancery Court before Chancellor Morris. It had been a long afternoon for my client and me with Harold jumping up with objection after objection and pacing back and forth behind us in the small Chancery courtroom. During one of these episodes the door to the Chancellor's chambers opened and peppermint sticks began flying through the air as Santa Claus appeared and joined the Chancellor on the bench. Harold was so stunned that he was without words momentarily until he finally recovered and joined in raucous laughter by all of us. [Santa was the late Ernie Gray, who had been playing Santa for the Youth Town boys at a party at St. Luke's.]

One of the greatest experiences I had with Harold was when he would on rare occasions ask me a question. One instance sticks out in my mind. One day about 1:30 p.m. he called and hollered with his phone on speaker, "Jane, what in the hell is truth in lending? I have a case in Judge Holt's court at 2 and I need to know. " I had a quick reference outline and he sent Freddie down to get it. About a week later I received a letter from him " Dear Jane: Thanks. Harold"

I always enjoyed chatting with Harold while waiting for court to begin. He loved to talk about his grandchildren and was very proud of them.

He was a good man and he will be missed.

TRACY TYLER

May 28, 2021

Harold was my divorce attorney in 2002. I still remember the very first time that I walked into his office. He was such a character!! He always gave me hope that there was life beyond divorce, and I will never forget his witty comments! I truly had the best attorney that money could buy! RIP dear Harold

Jim Simpson

May 27, 2021

Harold was a special friend. When my career path took me to Jackson for 6 years, Harold was my corporate attorney but our relationship advanced beyond that. Possibly that I was a UT alumni and Vol fan helped. I fondly recall the Wednesday night dinners at the Country Club, poolside watermelon and ice cream parties on Royal St, road trips to watch the Vols in the Ole Ump’s van, lunches at Brooksie’s Barn, and daily stories of Patsy, his children and grand children. R I P my friend, I will never forget those special years

Mary Jo Middlebrooks

May 27, 2021

From Teresa Luna:

The most fun trial (and appeals process) I ever had was with Harold Johnson. He and I were on one side of a disputed estate matter and John Van den Bosch was on the other side. We were in Judge Christy Little’s courtroom. Harold said: “Christy, you know that Van den Bosch is nothing more than a one-armed bandit.” I thought I would fall through the floor!! Judge Little and John Van den Bosch just laughed. Then, when we got to the Court of Appeals, Harold let me do the argument and reserved 30 seconds to say what he wanted to say. He said this: “Hell, the woman wrote down how she wanted her estate to be divided up. Let the dead woman have her wishes!” Well, the 3 judges just laughed, ----of course they did!

Mary Jo Middlebrooks

May 27, 2021

From Bill Purcell:

One memory:

Early in our time together I was second chair in defense of an automobile repossession case Cathy Hinko was leading.

Cathy had obtained extensive evidence from the Federal Reserve in St Louis. The result was a long and conclusive proof that the APR was miscalculated, there were many other violations of federal laws and rules, our client did not owe anything more, the plaintiff owed us a half a zillion dollars or more, and we could keep the car. Cathy having made this case absolutely conclusively sat down.

Judge Holt turned to the Plaintiff’s counsel and said: “Well, Mr. Johnson, she’s laid a lot of heavy law on you, what do you say?”

Harold Johnson rose slowly and said: “Well, your honor, I say that’s why we have judges.” And sat down.





William P. Purcell

Attorney at Law |

Frost Brown Todd LLC

bpurcell@fbtlaw.com

Michelle Roth

May 27, 2021

Mr Johnson was one of a kind. I loved hearing his stories from the past and tales of his travels with Mrs Patsy. She is a saint and he loved her dearly. I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Michelle Roth

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