Justice Byron Johnson, a singular character in Idaho public life, died Sunday at his home in Boises Collister neighborhood.
Johnson, a Harvard graduate, served on the Idaho Supreme Court for 11 years before retiring in 1999.
In private practice, he focused on criminal defense and for 18 years represented the Idaho Education Association. Johnson lost all three of his races for partisan office as a Democrat, twice for the Legislature and, in 1972, for U.S. Senate.
His obituary, which he drafted, describes Johnson as a poet first, then a retired justice.
Johnson quit wearing ties in court because he considered neckwear a symbol of elitism. He twice went to the Frost Festival in New Hampshire to improve his poems; nearly reached the peak of Mount McKinley at age 56; and was a leading figure in preserving the history of Idaho City, where he lived for 20 years with his wife, Boise County Magistrate Patricia Young.
His memoir, Poetic Justice, was published earlier this year.
Young said her husband died about 1 a.m. Sunday with two of his children at his side.
Blessedly, it was peaceful, Young said. Hes a tough guy and he didnt want to let go, but he did and it was very nice.
Young complimented the hospice care Johnson received from Lifes Doors.
Johnson will be remembered Jan. 6 at the Barber Events Center in Barber Park.
He didnt want a memorial service, but he did want a wake, Young said. He wanted a really good party. Were going to have good whiskey there, and good food.
Johnson also is survived by sons Matt and Ethan, daughters Elaine and Laura, and six grandchildren.
A former board president at The Cabin, Johnson asked that donations in his name be made to the literary center that has its office in Boise but operates statewide.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics