Oregon State Bar Bulletin — MAY 2006

In Memoriam

Inactive OSB member Robert Burns Kerr died March 1, 2006, at age 79.

He was born in Portland and was a graduate of Washington High School. He was a 1952 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law. After service in the Navy, he was an assistant district attorney and district court judge in Klamath Falls, and later an assistant Oregon attorney in Salem. He moved to Vancouver, Wash., in the late 1980s to work for the state of Washington.

Survivors include a sister.

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Wayne A. Williamson, a retired partner of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, died Feb. 28, 2006. He was 84.

Williamson started his career at the firm in 1948. During his tenure, he developed a reputation as one of the premier trial lawyers in the Pacific Northwest. His diverse civil practice focused on insurance defense, medical malpractice, products liability, real estate and business litigation..

Williamson was a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and was an elected member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a distinction reserved for the top two percent of trial lawyers in the country. He was consistently named to The Best Lawyers in America list.

In 1992, he was chosen by the American Board of Trial Advocates as one of Oregon’s distinguished trial lawyers. Williamson was a member of the Tort and Insurance Practices section of the American Bar Association and served in the Litigation, Judicial Selection, and Uniform Jury Instructions sections of the Oregon State Bar.

Williamson grew up in LaGrande and knew he wanted to be a lawyer by the sixth grade. While that aspiration, however, had to wait for the appropriate time, he was an avid student and athlete throughout his school career. He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Oregon.

During WWII, Williams served three years of active duty in the U.S. Navy as a sonar officer on the destroyer escort Neil A. Scott, which was engaged in anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic. After his discharge from the Navy, he moved to Palo Alto, Calif., where he entered law school and earned his juris doctorate from Stanford Law School. In 1948, Williamson, with his wife, Lois, moved to Portland to practice law and to start a family.

That same year, he joined Wilbur, Beckett, Oppenheimer, Mautz and Souther, a small firm with a history dating back to the 1890s. Williamson became a senior partner in 1962, and with unwavering dedication and hard work, helped the organization grow to become one of the largest law firms in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1987, the firm has been known as Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.

"Wayne was a private and humble person who got the job done," noted fellow partner John Schwabe. "He was admired as a solid professional and was exceptional at choosing the right lawyer for the right case. He was also tireless for a good, honest performance. He didn’t let people, not even judges, cut corners. That means something in our profession. He was a true legal pioneer."

According to Williamson’s family, he felt privileged to practice law and often talked about his good fortune to have made a career of something he loved so much.

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Mary Irene Duhaime of Medford, formerly of Eugene, died Feb. 4, 2006, at age 51.

Duhaime was born Nov. 28, 1954, in Medford. She graduated with a bachelor degree in English and sociology from the University of Oregon in 1976 and a juris doctorate from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1991. She worked for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office and was Ashland’s first female patrol officer in 1979. She worked for the Woodburn Police Department and for the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office from 1991 to 1999.

She married Don Williams on May 1, 1992, in Medford. In recent years, she was adjunct instructor in the criminology departments at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College. She enjoyed road running, hiking and gardening. She was a member of the University of Oregon Alumni Association and Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Oregon. Her family remembers that "she was passionate about her many interests and causes, fought prescriptive drug addiction and was active in addiction recovery groups."

Survivors include her husband; her parents, a brother and a sister.

• • • • •

Benhardt E. (Ben) Schmidt, a long time Portland attorney, died March 19, 2006.

Schmidt was born in Stillwater, Okla., on May 15, 1932. He spent most of his childhood in Sapulpa, Okla., where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. At age 16, his family moved to St. Helens, where Schmidt graduated from high school in 1950. Schmidt attended the University of Oregon in 1950 and was a member of Nike legend Bill Bowerman’s freshman football team. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in 1954. After graduation, Schmidt served as an Army officer from 1954-56. After he was discharged from the Army, Schmidt attended law school and graduated Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in 1960. Schmidt established his law practice in Portland, focusing primarily on criminal defense. While practicing in Portland, Schmidt was active in community work and activities.

As a lawyer, Schmidt profoundly touched the lives of all who knew him. At his funeral service, he was honored by friends and family, high school, college and law school classmates, a former Oregon chief justice and a former OSB president.

Schmidt is survived by his wife, Judith Brown Schmidt, and three daughters.


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