Although Joe was a city council member for a number of years, it's not the only way he impacted the community. Even though he had been sick for the past few weeks, his death has come as a shock to those who knew him.
To friends and colleagues, Joe Roach was much more than just a lawyer or a former council member -- he was a fearless advocate for those born with dwarfism.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker said, "He was very serious about his responsibilities as a role model. He understood the importance of representing a segment of our population that is often discriminated against."
Mayor Parker served alongside Roach at City Council, where he was a member from 1994 until 2000. Former Council Member Rob Todd was also a colleague, though the two first met years earlier, when Roach was prosecuting a case that Todd defended.
"I remember the first time I met Joe, it was in the court room, and I'll tell you for a little guy, he packed a big punch," Todd recalled.
At Joe Roach's law office, phones began ringing as soon as news spread of his passing. Family friends say their first priority is supporting Roach's widow Becky and their three children.
"His family is great," said friend Danny Trevino. "I know them very personally. His kids are wonderful, they're going to miss him a lot."
More than any of his accomplishments politically or legally, those who knew Roach say he would want his legacy to be the children he adopted and the family he cherished.
"He and his wife Becky have adopted kids, I have adopted kids with my partner Cathy, we have bonded over that as well," Mayor Parker said. "I'm absolutely, absolutely shocked. He's much too young to lose."
In fact, Mayor Parker says she first met Joe when she served on a grand jury and he was a prosecutor.
Roach's work associates and family friends are reeling from his death. They say he had much more planned for his life.