Bill’s father, Wilson Johnston, attended law school at the University of Texas, but left during his senior year to enlist in the Army at the start of WWII. Following combat in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, Wilson was asked to work for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) in Naples, Italy. He did so, and while there, authored a memorandum suggesting that officers and enlisted men were not being treated equally under military law. The history of military law had always favored officers, and Johnston made proposals on how to equalize the system. The proposals formed the basis of a document called “A Guide to Military Justice.” The Guide was adopted by General Eisenhower as the military rules were re-codified.
Following the war, Wilson Johnston practiced law in Abilene, Texas, and eventually became the City Attorney there.
When the iconic District Attorney of Dallas, Henry Wade, took office in the early 1950’s, he offered Wilson Johnston a job. Wilson Johnston served as a prosecutor in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for most of the next 30 years. After the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Wilson Johnston helped author the brief for the State of Texas in connection with the prosecution of Jack Ruby. Marina Oswald, the widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, would call the Johnston home from time to time in the 1960-70’s inquiring about legalities, controversies, and exhumations. Wilson Johnston represented Dallas County in federal court and handled the early phases of the now well-known case of Roe v. Wade.