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Books make summer forever.

As you read this, you are probably thinking it is too late for an obituary for Johnnie Cochran, because he passed away months ago. His awesome life was quite celebrated in the press, and now, those like me, who were his personal friends, mourn inwardly. I was still missing Johnnie as this summer reading issue approached press date, and as I reflected on passages from his books Journey to Justice (One World/Ballantine, September 1996) and A Lawyer's Life (Thomas Dunne Books, October 2002), I realized that Johnnie was still with me. He was still alive in his books.

Johnnie was so much more than the celebrity his legal pursuits and victories portrayed him to be. In the courtroom, long before his representation of high-profile clients, Johnnie became identified for his zeal and the presence he commanded when he stepped before the bench. He took cases rejected by others, often standing up for the wrongfully accused and the unfairly treated--characteristics that made his work more difficult--but all the more rewarding when he was successful.

Make no mistake--he knew the importance of drama and poignancy in conveying a message--as evidenced in his most famous quote: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." Like a great writer, Johnnie could coin a phrase. He used words masterfully, and he loved the written word, as attested to by his books. But he also knew that words--just words--could not stand alone. A quality defense had to be comprehensive, polished and effectively presented

Thinking back on Johnnie reminds me of the importance of books for capturing the lives of those we love in words. While the hundreds of books we cover in this issue may be summer reading for you, they are also enduring; they can last season after season, even for centuries. It is through books that this great-grandson of slaves, one of the first black students to integrate Los Angeles city schools, who early in his life was inspired by the work of Thurgood Marshall, will be known in depth. His legal career wielded immeasurable influence far beyond the courtroom, and his memoirs will perhaps have an even wider impact as future generations read his books. His position as a role model, mentor and friend has been cited by many, but even as personal testimonies pass away, his books will carry the story of this giant of a man, this brilliant jurist, to future readers.

Johnnie Cochran was a voice that needed to be heard. And for the 67 years that he was with us, he made sure the underserved and underrepresented had a voice. Sometimes it was he speaking for them. Other times, it was their voice urged on and supported by him. His voice has been stilled and it is continually missed. But those of us who knew him can still "hear" his voice through his books, and many can yet meet him in those pages. Johnnie's books, like so many others, keep summer with us, even through the winter of great men's passing.

Enjoy this summer reading issue and cherish great books, old and new.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:from the editor-in-chief
Author:Cox, William E.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Previous Article:Flying off the shelves.
Next Article:Executive editor's view.

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