Courthouse rallies around ‘Candy Man’ after cancer diagnosis

Rick Johnson is known around Houston’s legal circle as the ‘courthouse candy man’ in downtown Houston. He’s been at the corner of Caroline and Franklin Streets for a decade.

You often can hear him shouting, “Don’t worry, be happy” to those on their way into court as he sells candy. Defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges look at the 60-year-old as part of their courthouse family.

That’s why everyone took notice when one day Johnson stopped showing up to the spot where he stood each and every day for so many years.

“He never took a day off. That’s why we were so concerned,” said criminal defense lawyer Deborah Keyser.

Keyser and her husband James Stafford were so concerned that they called Houston Police and hired a private investigator.

They would soon learn the man they’d come to know and adore was sick with Stage 4 colon cancer.

Lawyers like Vivian King who’ve befriended him over the years are helping him with expenses and stopping by his house to visit him. A group even set up a GoFundMe account to help with his home care. 

“Rick is one of our shining stars at the courthouse. He dances with us. He embarrasses us. He does not allow anybody to be snooty,” King said. “I’m praying that a miracle happens.”

Johnson said he is overwhelmed by the support.

“I ain’t through crying. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Never in a million years did I think I affect so many people,” Johnson said. “Don’t worry. Be happy. Be happy. Don’t worry. Jesus has your back.”

Johnson’s courthouse family has been visiting him regularly ever since finding out about his diagnosis.

“You know how you never miss someone until they’re gone? Everyone misses Rick, so I think it will mean the world to us if he gets better,” said criminal defense lawyer Vivian King. “That big, tall courthouse will have a smile on it, instead of the frown that’s on there now.”