John E. Johnston

John E. Johnston, Jr., a Greenville giant, and a well-loved and respected member of the South Carolina legal community died in his home on September 2, 2016, six days before his 83rd birthday. Johnny, husband of the late Caroline Cannon Johnston, has left his footprints all over this town, and our city, county, and state are better because of it.

Born in Greenville on September 8, 1933, John was the second child of John E. Johnston, Sr. and Ruth Jones Johnston. He is predeceased by his sister, Marguerite Hays, who shared his sweet disposition, incredible intellect, and unparalleled humility.

After graduating from Greenville High School in 1951, John went on to USC for undergraduate studies and law school, where he finished first in his class in 1956, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and was the Chief Justice of the Wig and Robe. While at USC he was awarded a distinguished Air Force ROTC medal, was a member of SAE, was elected to Kappa Sigma Kappa and Omicon Delta Kappa, and served as assistant editor on the law journal. Shortly after graduation, he and Caroline moved to New Mexico where John served as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force, Office of the Judge Advocate General.

An incredible trial lawyer and devoted member of his community, John initially practiced law with his father and then later with both small and large firms, spending the majority of his distinguished career at Leatherwood. Johnny truly believed in, and exemplified, the notion that the law is a noble profession. As the SC Bar President, he advocated for increased pro bono hours, expanding access of the judicial system to all South Carolinians, and serving the public through community involvement. He also dedicated his time to improving and strengthening the Bar through his work as the Bar Foundation President, Chairman of the SC Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competence, and the SC Bar Board of Governors. His devoted and exceptional service to the Bar, as well as immense talent as a lawyer, was often noted by his colleagues and his community. John has been honored by election to the American College of Trial Lawyers, listed in the Best Lawyers in America for over a decade, been made an Emeritus Advocate for the American Board of Trial Advocates, as well as a Life Member of the Fellows of the American Bar Association. He was also awarded the Platinum Compleat Lawyer Award, given by USC to an attorney who demonstrates outstanding professional conduct, high competence, and proper conscious that reflect credit upon the legal system. The Greenville Bar has honored him with the Tommy Thomason award, given to the attorney who best exemplifies professionalism, integrity, compassion, and service.

Outside of the legal field, John also worked to better our state in other arenas. He was appointed to the State College Board of Trustees in 1972, a group which served Francis Marion College, the College of Charleston, and Lander University. He was later appointed chairman of the Lander Board of Trustees in 1988, where he enhanced higher education in South Carolina. In 1994, the John Johnston Commons at Lander University was dedicated in his honor where he was also awarded an honorary doctorate. In 1983, John was appointed by Governor Riley to serve on the State Job Training Coordinating Counsel, which sought to provide education, training, and employment assistance to low-income and unemployed youths and adults. In his younger years, he also served as Convention Secretary for the South Carolina Democratic Party. His role as supporting husband to Caroline, an immense public servant in her own right, was also a vital part of his life. Both Caroline and John have been awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the State’s highest honor.

Outside of serving the people of South Carolina, John spent time traveling the world with Caroline, his daughters, and friends. At home, Johnny was an avid gardener, even being noted in multiple publications for his ability to grow kiwi fruit in South Carolina.

When asked what his greatest personal achievements were in 1997, Johnny is quoted by USC as saying “staying happily married to the same woman for 42 years, raising three daughters, and spoiling eight grandchildren.” By 2016, John had stayed happily married for 50 years and spoiled nine grandchildren. John is survived by three loves of his life, his girls: Susan Tankersley, Stacey (Kevin) Reynolds, Cara (Keith) Thompson; his “adopted” son Brian Smith; nine adoring grandchildren, Ashley, Jeanmarie, Meghan, and Jim Tankersley, Macie, John, and Brett Thompson, Brooke and Brandon Reynolds; Kathy Paul, his long-time friend and caregiver, and his beloved dog, Coco. John is also survived by his brother-in-law, Dick Cannon, Jr. and numerous loving nieces, nephews, and cousins. The family extends their great appreciation to Donald “Chicken” Smith and Tasha Tarrant.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 PM Tuesday evening, September 6, 2016 at Heritage Funeral Home in Simpsonville, SC. A funeral service will be held Wednesday, September 7 at 2 PM at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church. Entombment will be private at Cannon Memorial Park Mausoleum.

Memorials may be made to the South Carolina Bar Foundation at, 950 Taylor Street PO Box 608 Columbia, SC 29202 or to South Carolina ETV at or (864) 591-0046.

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