Mike Freeman on the passing of friend, former County Attorney, Tom Johnson
It is with the greatest sadness that I must pass along the tragic loss last night, from cancer, my close friend and important mentor, former Hennepin County Attorney, Tom Johnson.
Tom contributed so much to so many, his family and friends, his colleagues, his community, and to the larger public. It is difficult, in a short statement, to highlight his rich legacy.
Tom had a distinguished career in roles outside of this office, but I will focus on the legacy he left for all of us.
It was Tom, beginning in 1979 and throughout his three terms, who initiated so many of the programs and policies that we are so rightly proud of today. To highlight a few:
Tom was committed to diversifying this office. In 1979, all but six or so attorneys were men and only one was a person of color. From his first day in office, Tom began proactive outreach to our community to attract and retain a far more diverse staff.
Tom pushed back hard against the notion that the only “real” rapes were stranger rapes, that domestic violence, short of murder, was not a criminal matter, and that children generally were not be believed regarding abuse and neglect. Under his leadership, much remedial legislation was proposed and enacted, and special teams were created to pursue such offenses and victim support services were rapidly expanded. Tom also contributed greatly to the Sentencing Guidelines initiative and reform in the areas of child support, child abuse and neglect, and mental health.
Most of all, Tom was a selfless public servant whose first and last question about any issue was what was the right way to best serve the public.