Joe N. Johnson Sr.

Nov. 27, 1928 - Jan. 31, 2015

Judge Joe N. Johnson Sr., 86, of Waco passed away Saturday, January 31, 2015. The memorial service will be 11 a.m., Wednesday, February 4, at First Presbyterian Church in Waco, with the Rev. Dr. Leslie King officiating. The family invites you to the visitation between 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, February 3, at Wilkirson Hatch Bailey Funeral Home at 6101 Bosque Boulevard, Waco.

Joseph Norman Johnson was born November 28, 1928, to Roy B. and Zenobia Key Johnson. He attended Waco schools and graduated from Waco High School in 1946. While in junior high and high school Joe played with various local bands. He was an accomplished trumpet player and soon after graduation he traveled across the country with the Art Mooney band, the Sunny Dunham Orchestra and others. On returning to Waco, Joe formed the Joe Johnson Orchestra where he celebrated his love for music with fellow musicians who became lifelong friends. He also caught the attention of Loduska Deane Webb, who became the love of his life. They were married on October 27, 1951.Joe attended x-ray school at Providence Hospital. When he was drafted during the Korean conflict in May of 1951, he served as an x-ray technician at Ft. Sam Houston and the 28th General Hospital in La Rochell, France. Joe subsequently attended Baylor, receiving a BA in music in 1956 and a law degree in 1964, while working as a TV news reporter for KWTX and a reporter for the Waco News Tribune.

While still in law school, Joe was elected as McLennan County Justice of the Peace. He served in that office for 24 years, during which he was always busy holding court, doing inquests and signing search warrants through all hours of the night, and performing hundreds of weddings (many hosted by Joe and Deane in their home). He always took extra time to listen and console families who had lost their loved ones.

In 1986, Joe was elected Judge of the 170th District Court where he presided for 16 years. He handled many jury and non-jury trials, and in particular, anguished over the many cases involving children. Joe wore multiple hats in the community and wore them well.

The year Joe retired, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He battled the disease for eleven years. During that travail, he never lost his love of music, his gracious gentlemanly manners, or his ribald sense of humor. Even as his memory faded, his core sense of dignity and compassion remained intact to the end. His laughter, the music he made that touched so many souls, and his sense of justice for all will be missed greatly by those he leaves behind.

When Joe took his last breath, a band of his beloved fellow musicians were tuning up their instruments in heaven. Nick Klaras on drums, Ed Burleson along with Dick Smith and Butterball Ferguson on bass, Tommy Norwood, Bobby Hamilton, and Jack McDaniel on saxophones, Archie Thompson on guitar and trombone, Harvel Armstrong on piano, and Rusty McNeil— and now Joe Johnson— on trumpet.

He was predeceased by his siblings, Roy Johnson Jr., Thad Johnson and Iva Belle Smith; and many nieces and nephews.

Joe is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Deane; his four children, Joe and wife, Gaye, of Plano, Barry of Dallas, Mindy Wren and husband, Jim, of Waco and Dena Williams of Waco; by his fourteen grandchildren, Blake, Eric, JJ, Melani, BJ, Lexi, and Pierce Johnson; Stacy, Eric and Jackson Wren; Austin, Beau, Colby and Drake Williams; and one great granddaughter, Reagan Johnson. He also leaves the many loving and nurturing angels who cared so deeply for their "Poppa Joe" at Sodalis.

The family would like to thank Dr. David Morledge, Dr. Charley Stern, our sweet Laura and the multitude of friends who helped us and encouraged us through this journey.

Honorary pallbearers will be Blake Johnson, Eric Johnson, JJ Johnson, Eric Wren, Jackson Wren, BJ Johnson, Austin Williams, Pierce Johnson, Beau Williams, Colby Williams and Drake Williams.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, North Texas Chapter, 6605 Sanger Ave., Waco, TX 76710; to the First Presbyterian Church, 1100 Austin Ave., Waco, TX 76701; or to any other charity.

The family invites you to leave a message or memory in our "Memorial Guestbook" at

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