Johnnie Cochran bio, OJ Simpson case, career, family, charity, and net worth

Who is Johnnie Cochran?

Johnnie Cochran is an American criminal trial lawyer and a civil activist. He gained international popularity with his controversial defense of several high-profile personalities.

Cochran was a well-honored attorney whose skills inside the courtroom were theatrical.

Johnnie is a unisex name that has its root in Hebrew. The name is an alternate spelling of Johnna which means “God is gracious.”

Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. got recognition for his legal awareness and courtroom skills. He used to solve cases involving celebrities and common men in unusual situations. Let’s say, Johnnie Cochran was one of the best there was at the job.

Johnnie Cochran bio, relationships, career and net worth
Johnnie Cochran biography

Johnnie was also a philanthropist. Cochran was the Chairman of the “Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.” It is an organization that economically helped deprived communities.

He had also set up a scholarship at the University of California under his name for African-American students.

quick facts

Full nameJohnnie Lee Cochran, Jr.
BirthdayOctober 2nd, 1937 
Place of birthShreveport, Louisiana, United States
Date of deathMarch 29th, 2005
Age at the time of death67 years old
Place of death              Los Angeles, California
Parents NameJohnnie Cochran Sr. (father)
Hattie Bass Cochran (mother)
TraitsPositive: tactful, charismatic, and kind
Negative: indecisive, self-indulgent, and superficial
Marital statusMarried
SpouseBarbara Berry Cochran (1960 – 1977)
Sylvia Dale (1985 – 2005)
ChildrenMelodie Cochran (daughter)
Tiffany Cochran (daughter)
Jonathan Cochran (son)
  • Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Marymount University School of Law
  • Bachelors of Arts degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles
  • High school degree from Los Angeles High School.
  •  Middle school degree from Mount Vernon Middle School
Height1.70 m
Weight66 kgs
Eye colorBrown
Net worthUSD 8 million (at the time of death)

Interesting facts

1. Johnnie Cochran’s great grandfather was a slave

Johnnie Cochran was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Johnnie Cochran Sr and Hattie Bass Cochran. His dad was an insurance salesman whereas, his mother sold Avon’s products. 

His family relocated to the West Coast, Los Angeles, along with millions of other African-American families during the Great Migration’s second phase in 1949.

2. Johnnie Cochran graduated first from Los Angeles High School

Johnnie’s family always encouraged him to be independent and well-educated. As a result, he attended public schools and completed middle school at Mount Vernon Middle School. 

He graduated first at the Los Angeles High School. Later, he studied BA in Business Economics from the University of California then earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Loyola Law School.

3. Johnnie Cochran has been married twice

Johnnie was first married to a primary school teacher named Barbara Berry Cochran. He shares two daughters named Tiffany and Melodie with her. They divorced after Barbara found him cheating on her with Patty.

Later, Cochran married Sylvia Dale.

4. Thurgood Marshall is his inspiration

He got inspired to practice law by Thurgood Marshall. Johnnie admired Marshall’s legal victory in ‘Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka’s case.’ 

5. Johnnie Cochran has his own law firm

Johnnie has dealt with high-profile cases like Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Snoop Dogg, and more. Throughout his career, he also opened two law firms.

He established Cochran, Atkins & Evans in 1966. 

In 1990, he joined Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith. This law firm now has its regional offices in 15 states of the USA.

6. Johnnie Cochran is also an actor

Besides being an ace lawyer, Johnnie has also starred in sitcoms like “The Hughleys,” “Family Matters,” and more. 

He has also attended TV shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Chris Rock Show.”

7. Johnnie Cochran died of an inoperable brain tumor

Johnnie was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December 2003. He underwent surgery in 2004. Sadly, he passed away on March 29, 2005, in his Los Angeles home. 

8. Johnnie Cochran has a favorite case

Johnnie’s favorite cause is Geronimo Pratt. He was a military who was wrongfully charged with the abduction and murder of an elementary school teacher. Geronimo served 27 years in prison.

The day of his release was the happiest day of Cochran’s legal practice.

Johnnie Cochran childhood and family

Johnnie Cochran was born on October 2nd, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran was born to Johnnie Cochran Sr. (1916-2018) and Hattie Bass Cochran. His father was an insurance salesman for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance. At the same time, his mother used to sell Avon’s products.

Cochran’s great grandfather was a slave.

Millions of African-American families shifted to the West Coast due to the ‘Great Migration’ second phase in 1949. Cochran’s family, too, relocated to the West Coast in Los Angeles.

Johnnie Cochran education

Being an African-American during the 1950s still was a tough time. However, Johnnie’s family encouraged him to be independent, well-educated, and unbiased.

Cochran attended public schools and excelled in his curriculums. He completed his middle school at Mount Vernon Middle School.

Johnnie graduated first in his class at the Los Angeles High School.

He completed his BA in Business Economics from the University of California in 1959. After that, Johnnie earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Loyola Law School in 1962.

While in his university years, he was also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Johnnie was also the fraternity’s 45th Laurel Wreath laureate.

Johnnie Cochran height

Johnnie Cochran was 1.70 m tall and weighed about 75 kgs.

Johnnie Cochran relationships

Barbara Cochran

Johnnie Cochran married Barbara Berry Cochran in 1960. Barbara was a primary school teacher.

Barbara accused Johnnie of having an affair with his long-time lover, Patty Sikora.

Barbara released a book titled “Life After Johnnie Cochran.” In the book, she has opened up about domestic violence by her ex-husband, Cochran.

She has written that Cochran was manipulative and offensive. She claimed that he would beat her every time she confronted him about his affair with Patty.

Sylvia Dale

After his divorce from Barbara, Johnnie married Sylvia Dale, a sales analyst, in 1985.

Sylvia was born in 1952 and is 13 years younger than her late husband. 

Johnnie Cochran with wife, Sylvia Dale
Johnnie Cochran with his wife, Sylvia Dale.

She met Cochran in 1981 at an airport where he was hosting a conference. She had a fulfilling career when she met him. 

They didn’t have any children. So Sylvia stayed with him till his last breath.

Johnnie Cochran children

Cochran has three children. He has two children with Barbara named Tiffany and Melodie. Johnnie has a son named Jonathan with his former girlfriend, Patty.

Tiffany Cochran (daughter)

His eldest daughter is Tiffany Cochran. She is married to Javarro Edwards and is a mother to Emerson Ambrose.

She works as the public relations manager and national brand manager for The Cochran Firm. She also supports the Johnnie L. Cochran Brain Tumor Center located at Cedars-Senai, Los Angeles.

Barbara Cochran (daughter)

Johnnie and Barbara share another daughter, Melodie. Unfortunately, there is no information on what Melodie does for a living or whom she has married.

Jonathan Cochran (son)

Johnnie Cochran also fathered a son, Jonathan, born from his affair with Patty Sikora. 

Jonathan is married to Cheryl Sneathern. In 2016, his mother, Patty, filed a lawsuit against him for making him purchase a home without giving him the title or deed.

Johnnie Cochran influences

Thurgood Marshall positively influenced Johnnie Cochran. He admired the legal victory he won in the ‘Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka’s case’ (1954).

It was the case where the Court ruled that,

“US State Laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are constitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.”

This case made Cochran know what he wanted to pursue, so he decided to dedicate his life to practicing law. He felt the need and the power to make a difference by practicing law.

Johnnie Cochran journey to justice

Johnnie’s road to legal practice was a tough one. He studied, practiced, and also faced some setbacks as a lawyer.

Nevertheless, Johnnie Cochran had vowed never to stop what he was doing, so he continued striving towards his dream.

Now, Johnnie is famous as the attorney of the defense team of OJ Simpson.

People know Cochran for dealing with high-profile cases like Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and more. He has also defended many police brutality cases associated with the African-American community.

Early career of Johnnie Cochran

After passing the bar exam in 1963, Johnnie worked as a deputy city attorney in the criminal division.

His first celebrity case was of Lenny Bruce in 1964. Lenny was a comedian who had got arrested with obscenity charges. By 1966, he entered private practice and opened his own firm Cochran, Atkins & Evans.

Cochran represented an African-American widow to get justice for her husband, Leonard Deadwyler. Leonard got shot and killed by the police officers in May 1966.

Even though Cochran lost the case, he realized that the trial had stirred the black community. It taught him that police brutality was an issue that really could get attention.

By the late 1970s, Johnnie Cochran was a well-known figure in the black community. He had already started to take several high-profile cases involving police brutality.

Peak Career of Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran law firm

To become “one of the good guys,” Cochran decided to get a pay cut and join the government. He returned to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

He got appointed as the First Assistant District Attorney. With this position, Cochran began strengthening ties with the political community. It was to change the system.

After five years at the government office, Cochran returned to private practice, stronger. He opened the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Law Firm.

He won $760k in the case of Ron Settles, a black college football player. He got murdered by the Signal Hill Police Department. Ron’s body was found severely beaten and hanging on June 2nd, 1981.

In 1990, Johnnie Cochran joined the firm, Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith in 1997. His Cochran Firm now has regional offices in 15 states of the United States.

Johnnie became so powerful that he could encourage settlement on a case just by his presence.

Johnnie was an advocate for minorities in police brutality and civil rights cases. But, the dramatic trial of the OJ Simpson case brought him more popularity and criticism.

Over the years of his career, Cochran has represented many high-profile personalities. Let’s get in-depth about the most talked-about celebrity cases of Cochran.

Johnnie Cochran OJ Simpson and ‘The Trial of the Century”

Cochran’s most remarkable case was OJ Simpson’s case. Simpson, a former football player, got charged with the double- case. The victims were his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

This case brought him an international spotlight. Johnnie was a part of Simpson’s defense team. The team also included Robert Kardashian, Barry Scheck, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, etc.

Johnnie Cochran with O.J. Simpson

The trial continued for 11 months, starting from January 24th, 1995. During the closing arguments, OJ Simpson was having difficulty wearing the blood-stained glove. The police found it at the crime scene.

It was when Cochran uttered,

‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,’

He denoted that Simpson was not guilty of the double murder case.

In October 1995, the authorities found Simpson found ‘not guilty’ of the crime. Prosecutor Christopher Darden suggested that Cochran had tampered with the glove. He also accused Cochran of persuading the juror of considerable doubt on the DNA evidence.

If you want to read on the opposition team, read about Marcia Clark here.

According to mercury.com, Cochran made $5 million to defend OJ Simpson. Rumors have it that OJ Simpson never really fully paid any of The Dream Team’s lawyers.

Johnnie Cochran Michael Jackson

Johnnie Cochran had also defended the famous pop star Michael Jackson when he was alleged of child molestation back in 1993 and 1994. Michael denied the allegations. 

This trial took place shortly before the OJ Simpson trial.

After the case settlement, Cochran commented that the resolution of the Michael Jackson case was in no way an admission of guilt. Instead, he said that Michael is an innocent man who does not intend to destroy his career and life by rumors.

Johnnie Cochran Sean Combs

Another famous high-profile case won by Johnnie was Sean Combs (P. Diddy) in 2001. Sean got charged with bribery and stolen weapons. Cochran defended him and won Comb’s freedom.

Cochran retired after his trial in 2002. R. Kelly and Allen Iverson also sought him out, but he declined.

Johnnie Cochran Abner Louima

Another famous case that Cochran has been a part of is of Abner Louima.

Abner Louima was a Haitian man living in Brooklyn. An officer, Justin Volpe, of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had assaulted, brutalized, and sexually abused him.

Abner got $8.75 million for settlement, the largest police brutality settlement in NYC.

Johnnie Cochran Stanley Tookie Williams

Stanley Tookie Williams was a 17-year old kid at that time. He was a founder and leader of an African-American street gang in Los Angeles called ‘Crisps.’

Stanley got charged with robbery in early 1997. Johnnie Cochran helped him get acquitted of all charges in a matter of 10 minutes.

Later, Stanley Tookie Williams was yet again charged for assaulting an APD personnel. Cochran denied representing Williams for his multiple murder trials.

Johnnie Cochran as an actor

After the OJ Simpson trial, Johnnie became a commentator for law-related shows. He even hosted his show named, “Johnnie Cochran Tonight” which aired on CourtTV.

There were deals from Hollywood, too. He appeared in sitcoms like “The Hughleys,” “Family Matters,” and many more.

At a time, Cochran had become a parody topic. It was when actor Phil Morris played attorney Jackie Chiles, representing Cochran in “Seinfeld.”

“South Park” also satirized him. The cast portrayed Cochran using the legal strategy called the “Chewbacca defense.” Ving Rhames has portrayed Cochran in the miniseries called “American Tragedy” (2000).

“The Book of Mormon” had also mentioned Johnnie. It is a musical comedy that depicts Cochran being in hell for setting O.J. Simpson free.

Actor Courtney B. Vance also portrayed Cochran in “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” (2016). The actor won the Primetime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.’

Johnnie also attended many TV programs like “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Chris Rock Show,” etc.

Johnnie Cochran books

Cochran has written two books, namely, “Journey to Justice” (1996) and “A Lawyer’s Life” (2012). Some sources also granted $2.5 million to write his memoir.

Thus, Johnnie was very successful. He was able to establish his enterprise, write his books, have his show, and even act on sitcoms. Cochran had the best of all.

Johnnie Lee rewards and recognition

People recognized Johnnie nationally for his high-profile cases. People praised him for his dedication to bringing justice to everyday Americans.

A list of his rewards and recognitions are as follows:

● The first attorney in LA to receive both ‘Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year’ and ‘Criminal Trial of the Year’ awards.

● The National Law Journal’s ‘America’s Trial Lawyer of the Year’ in 1995.

● Time’s ‘Headliners of The Year’ in 1999.

● ‘Top 50 Trial Attorneys of 1999’ in Los Angeles Business Journal.

● Elected as a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates.

● Recognized as one of the ‘Top One Percent of Trial Lawyers in the United States.’

● Inducted into the prestigious ‘International Academy of Trial Lawyers.’

Johnnie Cochran net worth

Cochran’s career as a ‘go-to’ lawyer earned him great wealth.

Johnnie Cochran’s net worth before his death was around USD 8 million. Cochran’s accountant estimated that his net worth would have been USD 25 – USD 50 million within 2021 if he were alive.

Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran house

He owned cars such as Rolls-Royce and Jaguar. He also had several homes in Los Angeles, two apartments in West Hollywood, and a Manhattan condo.


Johnnie was a well-known philanthropist as well.

He was the chairman of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. It is a publicly funded organization that sought economic developments for various neighborhoods.

He also established the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Scholarship for African-American men at UCLA.

He had also established the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Soaring Eagle Award in 1997. It is awarded to an attorney who pursues excellence. An attorney who has made considerable contributions to the legal profession while inspiring others.

social media

Johnnie does not own any form of social media account since he passed away in 2005. You can find his school and university websites that have his scholarship information.

Johnnie Cochran cause of death

Johnnie Lee got diagnosed with a brain tumor in December 2003. He underwent surgery in April 2004 due to which he remained away from the media.

Sometime after his surgery, he announced that he was feeling good and was in good health. Sadly, Johnnie Cochran passed away on March 29th, 2005, at his home in Los Angeles.

Johnnie Cochran was aged 67 when he died.

A public viewing of his casket took place on April 4th at the Angelus Funeral Home. The viewing also took place at the Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, on April 5th.

His family held a memorial service at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ on April 6th. His remains were buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

His father, children, and many friends attended Johnnie’s funeral. Former clients, including OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, were also there.

Johnnie Cochran legacy

Johnnie had successfully influenced so many lives and inspired people. His legacy continues to date.

Los Angeles Unified School District approved renaming Mount Vernon Middle School to Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School in his honor. The school was where Cochran once studied.

In 2007, the authorities renamed three blocks in front of the school as the ‘Johnnie Cochran Vista.’

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center launched Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center in 2007. Cochran’s neurosurgeon, Keith Black, led the research center.

Cochran’s family created The Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Chair in Civil Rights at his alma mater. They placed it at the Loyola Law School of Loyola Marymount University. His footprints also got featured on Northwest Louisiana’s ‘Walk of Stars.’


If there is anything you’d like to add or think we’ve missed, please feel free to comment below.

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