Amid college students who were relaxing and enjoying yesterday’s warm weather, the Howard University family paid tribute to the life of Mr. Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Esq. as his funeral took place in Los Angeles, which was reportedly attended by thousands.
Many noteworthy people such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Mayor James K. Hahn and Stevie Wonder were all in attendance at the Los Angeles funeral.
Although, Mr. Cochran will always be remembered for successfully defending O.J. Simpson and ultimately setting him free, this was not true victory. Actually, his proudest victory came when he allowed people like Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, the former Black Panther Party leader, to walk out of jail after 27 years for being wrongly convicted of a murder.
On March 29, 2005 Mr. Cochran succumbed to a brain tumor, which was detected in December 2003, in his Los Angeles home. He was 67 years old.
At the funeral in LA, Pratt said, “I salute Johnnie with all of the fervor, and all of the for-realness, for all of the brothers and sisters who are still in prison,” as reported by the LA Times.
Throughout the brief remembrance ceremony at Howard several of the speakers made reference to his commitment of justice for all and the continuous inspiration he will give to those following in his foot steps.
Mr. Cochran was described as “more than just an attorney with memorable defense themes,” but “an advocate for the less fortunate,” said Alexis C. Logan, President of the Chapel Assistants, who was “committed to ‘fighting in the trenches to defend the principals of justice in our constitution.’” Ms. Logan went on to say that he was the “true epitome of what we call ‘giving back.’”
After a reading of Psalm 90 by Dr. Eleanor W.Taylor, Chairman of the Department of English, which included the verse, “Let your work appear to your servants, and your glory to their children,” L. Chris Stewart, a student from Howard University School of Law, shared a recent experience that he and his classmates had this past weekend at the ABA (American Bar Association) National Tournament in Chicago, Illinois.
This tournament has been in existence for 15 years and it operates on an invitation only basis. HU Law was the only minority team amongst 16 schools from America and around the world. Furthermore, HU Law was the only HBCU to compete within the tournament’s history.
During this tournament, Mr. Stewart and his colleagues remembered looking around the courtroom to realize that there were no African-American judges or jurors present. He shared that that their participation in the tournament was what Mr. Cochran’s career and contributions to the legal arena meant to him. Howard University School of Law won first place at the tournament dethroning last year’s winner, Harvard School of Law.
While it was a day of sadness, Mr. Kurt L Schmoke, Dean of the School of Law, reminded the audience that it was a day that the Lord made, so we ought to rejoice and be glad in it. He went on to read a portion of a forward written by Thurgood Marshall, Mr. Cochran’s inspiration, which appears in the book “Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944” by J. Clay Smith.
The passage said “these lawyers have used this legal training not only to become masterful technicians but to force the legal system to live up to its creed: the promise of equal justice under law.” Mr. Schmoke applied this to Mr. Cochran who was not only a masterful technician of the law, but most importantly a warrior for social justice.
Next, University President H. Patrick Swygert spoke of how Mr. Cochran invested his time in the students at the School of Law and how it is his hope and prayer that Howard’s future lawyers also become champions of justice.
Dean of the Chapel, Bernard L. Richardson, ended the ceremony by charging students to have careers filled with passion and commitment, to seek justice, and to help the poor so that this nation can become what it ought to be.