Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Obituaries / Obituary: Judge John Samuel Johnston Jr.

Obituary: Judge John Samuel Johnston Jr.

Retired Campbell Circuit Court Judge John Samuel Johnston Jr. died Dec. 10. He was 76.

Born and raised in Alabama, Judge Johnston earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in 1968, where he was a member of the Chi Phi social fraternity. He went on to attend law school at the University of Virginia, where he was elected to law school council as a third-year student and was a member of Phi Alpha Delta.

Following graduation, Judge Johnston clerked for one year with Chief U.S. District Judge Frank McFadden of the Northern District of Alabama before returning to Virginia and joining the Kiser, Phillips & Petty firm in Lynchburg.

In 1977, at the age of 30, Judge Johnston was appointed to the Campbell General District Court. At the time, he was the youngest judge in Virginia. Four years later, he was elevated to the Campbell Circuit Court, becoming the youngest circuit judge in Virginia at age 34. Judge Johnston continued in this role for decades, retiring in 2008 after 31 years as a judge.

Twice, Judge Johnston was called on for service by the governor. Under Gov. Chuck Robb, Judge Johnston served on the governor’s task force to combat drunk driving. Later, under Gov. Douglas Wilder, Judge Johnson served on the commission for parole and sentencing reform. Judge Johnston was also a charter member of the Virginia Sentencing Commission.

Judge Johnston was a frequent presenter before the Virginia Bar Association, Virginia State Bar and Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. In 2007, the VTLA honored him with the association’s Distinguished Service Award. For 16 years, Judge Johnston led the VTLA judges panel at its annual convention.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly recognized Judge Johnston as a Leader in the Law in 2011. Five years later, he received the Champion of Justice Award from the American Board of Trial Advocacy’s Virginia chapter, recognizing Judge Johnston “for his service to the community and for exemplary contributions to the people of Virginia.”

One of the key accomplishments of Judge Johnston’s career was the construction of a new courthouse in Rustberg in the early 1990s. Judge Johnston considered Rustberg as a second home.

Judge Johnston is survived by his wife of 54 years, Elizabeth; his children, Margaret, Whitaker, Mollie and Annie; his “bonus daughter,” Elizabeth; and seven grandchildren.