Remembering James D. Johnson, J.D., Ph.D.
January 28, 2022 (ATLANTA) — We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of
our esteemed colleague and dear friend, James D. Johnson, J.D., Ph.D., principal and
founding member of Johnson, Marcou, Isaacs & Nix, LLC. An extraordinary man,
notable scientist, remarkable lawyer, and stalwart comrade, we celebrate his incredible
Born in California, raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and a resident of Highlands, North
Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, Jim passed away peacefully at 74 with his beloved
wife, Shirley Merchant Johnson, and his sister-in-law, Mary Darwin Johnson, at his side.
A graduate of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, with a B.A. degree in
chemistry, Jim was awarded a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Emory University School of
Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. He conducted his postdoctoral research at Scripps Institute
of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, spending several summers at the Marine
Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
He and Shirley enjoyed many trips across the country, moving between the labs in
California and Massachusetts. They later returned to Atlanta, where Jim served on the
Emory University School of Medicine faculty in the Biochemistry and Medicine
departments, with an appointment in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He was also a
senior research scientist at the Veterans Administration Hospital Research
Laboratories. After a year as a visiting faculty member at the University of New Orleans,
Jim returned to Atlanta to attend the Emory University College of Law, graduating with
honors in 1984.
With an exemplary legal career emulated by the next generation of lawyers, Jim began
his practice as a registered patent attorney at the intellectual property boutique law firm
of Jones & Askew in Atlanta. Jones & Askew later joined Kilpatrick Stockton, now
Kilpatrick Townsend, where Jim was tapped to lead the Biotechnology and Life
Sciences group. He then moved to King & Spalding, LLP’s Intellectual Property team
(Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Intellectual Property group) in Atlanta.
Jim’s legal practice focused on chemical and biomedical patent prosecution and
chemical and biomedical technology licensing. During his career, he also served as
general counsel for CytRx Corp. in Norcross, Georgia, and EntreMed, Inc., in Rockville,
Maryland, along with board positions for several biotechnology start-up companies.
A visionary and thought-innovator who practiced at the intersection of law and science
for many decades, Jim provided uncompromising excellence in everything he did; in
fact, he insisted on it. As a result, he co-founded what is now Johnson, Marcou, Isaacs
& Nix in 2010 to raise the bar in providing far more concentrated legal expertise and
delivering next-level client service. A leader by example who was both understated and
effectual, Jim worked with his co-founders to assemble a group of seasoned partners,
associates, patent agents, paralegals, and support staff – all specifically chosen – to
deliver not only pragmatic, actionable advice but also provide far more personal
attention to clients and help them achieve overarching strategic goals.
Passionate about engineering, technology, and innovation, Jim was the ultimate
“technology first adopter.” He possessed many electronic toys and cool gadgets and
was always armed with the latest computer, telephone, communicator, and of course,
automobile. An outstanding cook and charming host, Jim was the instigator of anything
celebratory throughout his life with friendships in and out of the office that lasted
decades. However, he was most proud of his marriage to Shirley, his nieces and
nephews, Mel and Michele Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia; Mary Beirne and Gil Vela, of
Huntsville, Alabama; Polly and Brandon Pinke, of Huntsville, Alabama; Will and Danielle
Clark, of Durham, North Carolina; and Corrie Clark and Andy Turner, of Washington,
D.C.; and their children, his great-nieces, and nephews.
We honor our dear friend and leader and admire the way Jim thrived – always with a
curiosity of spirit, love in his heart, and respect for everyone with whom he interacted.
We express our sincere gratitude to his family for sharing him with us for so many
years. Jim will never be forgotten.