Former Circuit Court Judge Robert (Bob) Abrams died Sept. 4, 2005, in Portland at age 80. The Bellingham, Wash. native graduated from Stanford University and received a law degree from the University of Oregon in 1952. He was a lawyer in private practice in Heppner for 27 years and served as Wheeler County district attorney (1953-1957) and Morrow County district attorney as well (1957-1961). He was elected Umatilla-Morrow circuit judge in 1984 and sat from 1985 to 1996. Following a stroke in 1996, Judge Abrams tried hard to continue to work, which friends consider a testament to his strong will. It was very difficult time though, and in 1997, Abrams and his wife Marian moved from Pendleton to Portland to be closer to family, medical care and to find a home that was more handicap-accessible. Despite the move, Morrow County friends and colleagues note that he remained "an Eastern Oregon person at heart."
In reporting on Abrams’ death, the East Oregonian newspaper quoted Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wallace, who served on the bench for several years with Abrams, who said, "He was a real gentleman. He was a fair-minded, decent person with a great legal mind, and was well-respected." A variety of colleagues concurred, including his opponent in the 1984 circuit court race, former Umatilla County District Attorney Dave Gallaher; the two climbed Mount Hood together after the election. Abrams was soft-spoken and polite to everyone who appeared before him and a mentor and good friend to many.
Abrams is survived by his wife, Marian, a son, four daughters, a brother and sister, and four grandchildren.
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Lyle R. Wolff died June 21, 2005. "The Judge," as he was known to friends, fellow lawyers, newspaper editors and publishers, and a series of Oregon governors, was raised on a small farm in Wood River, Neb. He graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on Dec. 16, 1941, and was commissioned a pilot in August 1942. As a B-26 bomber pilot, Wolff flew 45 combat missions over Europe and earned an Air Medal and eight Oak Leaf Clusters. The nose of Wolff’s B-26 was well known throughout the U.S. Air Corps. It depicted "Mr. Fala" (the Roosevelt family dog) quipping "this is my lucky day" as the dog prepared to urinate on Hitler, portrayed as a fire hydrant.
Wolff enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1945. Following law school graduation in 1948 he came west with his elderly father. He was admitted to the OSB in 1948 and began his law practice that year in Baker. In 1957, at the age of 37, Wolff was appointed to the circuit bench by then-Gov. Robert Holmes. Wolff served on the Baker County circuit bench until 1977.
Although Wolff never married, he was "family" and a mentor to many of the lives he touched. Lee Bollinger, the former president of the University of Michigan and current president of Columbia University, was raised in Baker and considered "The Judge" part of the Bollinger family: "He was a guide into the world of law and adulthood. He brought to my life a challenging intellect along with a salty humor about life, law and politics, which seemed to make it possible from the remote planet of Baker to engage with the larger universe."
Robert Neuberger also described "The Judge" as part of the family and a significant influence during his formative years in Baker.
Wolff spent his later years in Salem, where he also made many loyal friends. An editorial in the June 23, 2005, issue of the Statesman Journal described Wolff. "Oh, how The Judge loved to talk about politics, government and the courts (mixed in with a few stories about his beloved dog and occasional complaints about his maladies). His telephone was his connection to a vast array of sources, a network seemingly so extensive that it would put many a new reporter to shame." Wolff is remembered as a man of vast intellect, who had a profound respect for the law, and was a loyal and unwavering supporter of his many friends.
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Oregon State Bar member Dennis Dolan Butcher died Aug. 17, 2005, in Santa Barbara, Calif., of pancreatic cancer. He was 75.
Butcher was born in Portland and graduated from Washington High School in 1948. The Stanford University graduate earned his law degree at the University of Colorado and served as a law clerk for Oregon Supreme Court Justice Earl C. Latourette.
In 1956, Butcher and his family moved to Santa Barbara, where he joined the district attorney’s office before going into private practice at Brelsford, McMahon, Butcher & Loberg.
Along with the Oregon and California bars, Butcher was a member of the Sierra Club and the Democratic Central Committee. He enjoyed traveling, hiking, skiing and camping.
Butcher is survived by Susan, his wife of 53 years, two daughters, three sons and two grandchildren.
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The Bulletin has also received notice of the deaths of OSB members Armonica Gilford and Mercedes Deiz — two well-known and respected Oregon lawyers who died one day apart, October 4 and October 5 (2005), respectively. Gilford and Deiz both had "firsts" attached to their names: Gilford was the first African American woman to work for the Oregon Department of Justice; Deiz was the first African American woman to be admitted to the Oregon bar, and the first to be appointed to the Oregon bench.
Full "In Memoriam" notices for both Gilford and Deiz will appear next month.