George Johnson died peacefully at home on November 20, 2022 of heart failure at the age of 85.
George didn’t believe in funeral services or even obituaries like this, but he did want his friends and enemies to know that he died happy and unrepentant.
He died happy because he loved his family and he loved Boulder and his wide circle of friends. George died unrepentant because, in the face of constant status quo opposition, he did his best to make things better. He moved to Boulder in the early seventies to take a very low paid position at CU’S Legal Aid Program. He immediately got in hot water at CU, never managed to get right with them and finally got himself fired in 1978. Other faculty stints proved similarly unsuccessful. Several times rejected, George finally went into a solo Boulder practice to find himself a boss that liked him. In his practice, he struggled to even the playing field for his clients.
George started early. Two years out of college, he joined very first Peace Corps project, where he ran a rural road building project in far southern Tanzania. He then somehow got into law school. Rather than try to wedge himself into a Wall Street firm, he volunteered during his first and second law school summers with unpaid civil rights projects. His law practice reflected his political passions. He represented Black Panthers, White Panthers, and innumerable protesters and community groups struggling against the status quo. In conjunction with hundreds of student protestors, he drove CIA recruiting off the CU campus permanently; making CU the sole American university the CIA doesn’t dare to recruit at. Sometimes George won, more often he lost but he never stopped trying.
He married four times, first to Harriet Cohen, then to Elizabeth Farrell and then to Nancy Wallen. By great good fortune, late in life George met his true love, Peggy Wrenn, herself a major Boulder Community stalwart. Even greater fortune blessed them with their son, Colin Johnson Wrenn. Together, they lit up George’s last four decades.
He’ll be missed. He took part in the actions and passions of his time: he can be judged to have lived.
Peggy Wrenn, George’s wife and his son Colin Wrenn will be organizing a Celebration of George’s life, in early 2023.