Johnnie Cochran was born October 2, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisana to Johnnie L. Cochran and Hattie Cochran. His father, Johnnie Sr., was an insurance salesman at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company while his mother, Hattie, sold Avon Products. Cochran attended public schools and excelled in his academics.
He graduated from Los Angeles high school in 1955 and was top of his class before enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles where he graduated from with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Economics in 1959 and earned himself a Juris Doctor in 1962 from the Loyola Law School.
Legal Career and Achievements
In 1963, Cochran passed the bar and received his first case in 1964 which was a celebrity case and within the space of two years, he had gotten himself into private practice and later opened his own firm which was named Cochran, Atkins & Evans in Los Angeles. By the late 1970’s, Cochran had already built a reputation for himself within the black community.
He took on highly publicized police brutality cases and defended celebrity clients. Cochran defended celebrities such as Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Snoop Dogg, Todd Bridges and so many others not mentioned. He established himself as a sought-after attorney and was capable of handling police brutality cases which were brought to him.
Johnnie Cochran drew his inspiration from Thurgood Marshal and it made him arrive at the decision to dedicate his life to practising law because he had the passion to defend the helpless and oppressed. To Cochran, his career was a calling which he had to answer, he saw it as an opportunity for him to fight for what is right and challenge the ills and fight for what he felt was wrong.
As a lawyer, Cochran also had ups and downs in his career; there were times he had major setbacks but did not relent and refused to be discouraged from doing what he felt was right because he truly believed within himself that he could make a difference in the world by practicing law.
The case that brought him to the limelight of international prominence and made him one of the most reputable trial lawyers in the US was that of former American footballer, O.J. Simpson who was charged with a double homicide.
Cochran set up the Johnnie L Cochran Snr scholarship at the University of California, Los Angeles for African-American men and he has also served as the chairman of the upper Manhattan Empowerment zone whose main objective was to revitalize economically deprived communities.
Johnnie Cochran has been married twice. He was first married to Barbara Berry Cochran in 1960. His marriage to Barbara who was an elementary school teacher ended in 1977 and he got married again to Sylvia Dale and the union lasted from 1985 to 2005. His first marriage produced two daughters – Tiffany and Melodie – while he had a son, Jonathan, from his former girlfriend, Patty Sikora.
History of Domestic Abuse, Double Life
Johnnie Cochran was said to be a man who lived a double life. He was accused by his first wife, Barbara, of having an affair with his longtime mistress, Patty Sikora. She wrote in her book Life After Johnnie Cochran which was published in 1995 that she was beaten and molested by the attorney several times when they were still together as a couple.
She described Cochran as being deceitful, manipulative, controlling and abusive. She also said that most times, whenever she confronted him about his affair with Patty, the attorney will get so angry and beat her up. These accusations of Barbara became very public during the O.J. Simpsons murder trial. She also claimed that Cochran and his father had tried to pressure her to deny the abuse claims she had made in the past.
Johnnie Cochran’s Death
In December 2003, Johnnie Cochran was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he decided to go for surgery to remove it which he did in April 2004. During the process of his recovery, he stayed away from the media for some time. Sadly on March 29, 2005, Johnnie Cochran passed away at his home in Los Angeles.
There was a public viewing of his casket and it was conducted on the 4th of April at the Angelus Funeral Home and also on the next day (April 5th) at Second Baptist church in Los Angeles. They held a memorial service at West Angeles Church of God on April 6, 2005, and he was laid to rest in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
On January 24, 2006, which was the following year after Cochran’s death, the officials of Los Angeles Unified School District approved the renaming of “Mount Vernon Middle School” where he once studied after him. The approved new name was Johnnie L Cochran Jr. Middle School and in 2007, the “Johnnie L Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center” was launched with Keith Black, who was the neurosurgeon that treated Cochran as the head of the research center.