Neighbors and friends gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of Thomas Johnson and Leslie Ann Jones, a married couple, both highly accomplished lawyers, whom police found dead in their Fair Oaks Avenue home late April 13.
Together in grief but removed in proximity, those who attended brought candles and special mementos symbolic of the deeply loved Jones and Johnson, whose deaths have come as a major shock and devastated many in Oak Park and the wider community.
“Leslie and Tom made people feel seen, heard and valued,” said Donna Peel, a friend and neighbor of Jones and Johnson.
“Their kindness, daily acts and participation on our block and in our community added up to the extraordinary result of changing many lives. They remain my role models,” she said.
Those in attendance were encouraged to speak a sentence or two about the couple and what they meant to those who knew them.
“When people had to pick one sentence to share, it was about something that truly mattered,” said Peel. “It was a memory, reflection, or personal outcome that only gets shared about those who live their lives right.”
More than 50 people, many of whom wore masks, showed up to pay their respects. People placed candles outside the home of Jones and Johnson, whose deaths police are investigating as a double homicide.
Many people brought baseballs and White Sox gear for Johnson, who coached many Oak Park kids in T-ball. For Jones, people brought books she had recommended to them and knitting needles.
Both partners at Johnson, Jones, Snelling, Gilbert & Davis, Jones and Johnson were committed to social justice and passionate about helping those in need – in their careers and their personal lives.
Johnson helped to develop affordable housing in Chicago and worked to reform the city’s voter registration and electoral system. He served as a special commissioner for the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Johnson also served as a hearing officer for the Chicago Police Board, an independent civilian board that decides police disciplinary cases. According to the Police Board, Johnson conducted over 350 hearings into police misconduct, including the four officers found guilty of making false or misleading statements about the 2014 shooting of civilian Laquan McDonald. He also enjoyed working in his yard.
Jones specialized in federal litigation, real estate and corporate transactions and zoning law. Outside of her career, she served many years on the board of Hephzibah Children’s Association. She was a voracious reader, knitter, baker and weaver.
The couple has four adult male children.
During the vigil, Oak Park police cordoned off Fair Oaks Avenue between Iowa Street and Chicago Avenue to allow people to stand at least six feet apart from each other in the yard and on the street.
Along with sharing heartfelt words and lighting candles, neighbors and friends played music and sang songs. Some played guitars. The group concluded the vigil by playing Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”