Legendary Oregon attorney, Willamette alumnus dies

by J.R. Tarabocchia,

Bruce Williams BA’40, JD’48 was an enormous influence to generations of Oregon lawyers.

Bruce Williams, legendary lawyer, World War II fighter pilot, and Willamette undergraduate and law school alumnus passed away on Dec. 17, 2018, at the age of 99. Williams was described as a real-life Atticus Finch, “mesmerizing” in the courtroom, and one of the most ethical and fair attorneys in the region.

 Bruce WilliamsWilliams earned a bachelor’s degree at Willamette in 1940, then enlisted in the navy where he served as a flying ace during World War II. His heroism earned him the Navy Cross and four Distinguished Flying Crosses. After the war, Williams returned to Willamette to earn his law degree in 1948.

He had a long career in the law including a thriving firm with classmate and eventual Ninth Circuit Judge Otto Skopil.

“Mr. Williams was beloved in the local bar, and was an enormous influence to generations of Oregon lawyers,” says Curtis Bridgeman, Dean and Roderick & Carol Wendt Chair in Business Law. “He was a legend in his own time and remains an inspiration for for future generations of law students.”

Read Williams’ full obituary in the Statesman Journal.

Willamette profiled Williams in the 2014 edition of The Lawyer.

About Willamette University College of Law

As the first law school in the Pacific Northwest, Willamette University College of Law boasts an innovative program designed to prepare leaders in government, private practice, and business with the lawyering skills needed in the 21st Century. Willamette Law’s small class sizes foster an interactive learning environment among our diverse student population with a thriving externship and clinical program, ample practical skills courses, and a new Business Lawyering Institute. With a “one student at a time” placement approach, our students are given individualized development plans and tools for success in today's legal job market. In recent years, outside industry watchers such as Moody’s and The National Jurist Magazine have recognized Willamette Law for its positive job placement results. Willamette lawyers are the best dealmakers, problem solvers, community leaders, and change-makers in the most innovative and exciting region in the country. Our location — nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley and across the street from the Oregon State Capitol, Supreme Court and many state agencies — is an advantage that cannot be matched anywhere in the region.

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