CHARLESTON – Circuit Judge John C. Yoder died Friday after complications following open heart surgery nearly two weeks ago. He was 66 years old.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry II released a statement upon hearing of Yoder’s death.
“I’m saddened by the loss of Circuit Judge John Yoder,” he said. “He was a dedicated public servant who cared about our state. I was fortunate to get to know Judge Yoder well during the 2012 campaign. He will be missed.”
Secretary of State Mac Warner said he was pleased to know Yoder and considered him a dear friend.
“His passing is a great loss to me, to his family and to the State of West Virginia,” Warner said. “Through his service as a state senator to his time as a circuit judge, Judge Yoder became the embodiment of what true, humble public service is all about. On behalf of the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office, our prayers and condolences go out to his family that they may find peace during this time of grief."
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas called Yoder a “consummate happy warrior for conservatives and freedom in West Virginia.”
“A pioneer for the Republican state we are today, he served to make our laws and then to apply them to the lives of our fellow citizens,” Lucas said. “He took on runs for office when our ranks were few, and odds were long.”
Lucas said Yoder was a tireless devotee to the conservative cause in West Virginia.
“He never backed down from a challenge and we are a better state and party because of his work and scholarship,” Lucas said. “Tonight, we honor his courage that helped build the conservative team and values we serve today. God bless John Yoder and the family, friends and this state he loved.”
Yoder was born on Jan. 9, 1951, in Newton, Kan., to Gideon G. Yoder and Stella H. Yoder.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Chapman University in 1972, where he double-majored in government and economics.
In 1975, he received his law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law. In 1976, he received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, where he studied economics under Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman.
Yoder also graduated from several programs at the National Judicial College and the National College of Juvenile Justice.
His law career spanned more than forty years, including time spent in the West Virginia senate, being a district court judge in Kansas for four years, practicing law for 23 years in Harpers Ferry, practicing of counsel to Burch & Cronauer in Washington, D.C. for nine years and, most recently, working in his second eight-year term as a circuit judge for the 23rd Judicial Circuit. He also ran for state Supreme Court justice on three occasions.
In his law practice he concentrated on complex civil litigation, constitutional law, civil RICO, appellate law, land use and employment discrimination.
Yoder was a director for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1983 to 1985, where he set up the then-new Asset Forfeiture Office.
He was a fellow/special assistant at the U.S. Supreme Court from 1980 to 1983.
Yoder was also an assistant professor of business at Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., from 1975 to 1976 and taught U.S. Government at Bethel College, in Newton, Kan., from 1976 to 1978.
He was licensed to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Fourth Circuit, DC Circuit, and Sixth Circuit; Federal District Courts in Kansas, Indiana, the District of Columbia, West Virginia and the Northern District of Ohio; U.S. Tax Court; and in the states of West Virginia, Kansas, Indiana and the District of Columbia.
On May 25, Yoder made a post on Facebook, informing family and friends that he would be having open heart surgery the following morning at Washington Hospital Center to have his aortic valve replaced for a second time.
“I want to thank all my friends who have been praying for me,” he wrote.
He wrote that he had hoped to post the following evening to report the surgery had been successful.
“It is comforting to have so many people say they are praying for me or sending me healing energy,” he continued. “I have not had time to thank all of you individually, so I want to thank you now for your continued prayers and support.”
After the news that Yoder had passed, more than 400 comments were posted by family and friends on the May 25 post, saying he would be deeply missed.
Yoder frequently shared photos on Facebook of the beauties of West Virginia, as well as his dog, Roxie. He also shared movie reviews for movies he saw, the most recent being, “Everything Everything.”