Longtime Fort Collins public servant James Paul Johnson dies at 93

James Johnson
James Johnson
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Former congressman and longtime public servant James Paul Johnson of Fort Collins died Nov. 16, passing peacefully in the company of his children, according to his family.

Johnson was 93.

According to prior reporting in the Coloradoan by Fort Collins historian Barbara Fleming, Johnson "came to Fort Collins in 1959 with his wife, Nancy, two children and $200 in his pocket." He leaves a history of service to the city and state.

The Marine Corps. veteran and jet pilot during the Korean conflict served Colorado, Larimer County and Fort Collins in a variety of roles, from eight years in Congress to positions in the judiciary as municipal judge and prosecutor. He served on Poudre School District's board of education, taught at Colorado State University and coached Rams track athletes.

Johnson, a Republican, served in Congress from 1972-80 in what was then Colorado's 4th Congressional District, focusing much of his time on bills that benefited Colorado's public lands and natural resources. He originally ran for Congress in a failed 1966 bid in protest of the Vietnam War.

Barbara Fleming: James Paul Johnson made an impact through public service

When informed of Johnson's death, Former Colorado Sen. Hank Brown said, “(Jim) was one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever gotten to know in my life. He was somebody I admired an enormous amount.“

Upon retiring from Congress, Johnson returned to Fort Collins to practice family law, having graduated from the University of Colorado's law school in his earlier years. He also helped found Aqua-Tec, the Fort Collins company that is now Water Pik.

Per his obituary shared with the Coloradoan, Johnson was born June 2, 1930 in Yankton, South Dakota. He is survived by daughter Dea Carlson, son-in-law Woody Carlson, daughter JC Cagle, son Drake Johnson, daughter-in-law Christy Johnson; nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

His obituary notes that in the book "Watching Politicians: Essays on Participant Observation," author Richard Fenno wrote that Johnson "could quote the Bible (or was it Shakespeare?) and swear like a sailor. Fenno wrote that Jim was the kindest politician he met, and the only one to spend time with him after the workday was done."

Johnson's public service also included driving for Meals on Wheels, providing college tuition for numerous students and, per his obituary, "he once convinced his family to give up a ski trip in order to provide a prosthetic leg to a man in need."

A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 531 S. College Ave., at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, with a reception to follow at the home of Drake and Christy Johnson. Those unable to attend can view the service live at firstpresfc.org/livestream.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Longtime Fort Collins public servant James Paul Johnson dies at 93