Meade Emory, making change with a jaunty fedora

A friend remembers how much a fellow lawyer with a large and optimistic personality managed to animate many aspects of Seattle life.

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Meade Emory: a life well and usefully lived.

A friend remembers how much a fellow lawyer with a large and optimistic personality managed to animate many aspects of Seattle life.

Communities thrive when individuals with large and engaging personalities bring people together, generate support for ideas, and help propel the civic agenda.  Most often behind the scenes, these are people who make a big difference in our world.  Meade Emory, who died last week at 79, was such a man, and it's worth noting how he worked to animate our community. 

Meade was an optimist with a ready smile, often wearing his jaunty fedora and sporting a twinkle in his eye. He brought boundless energy to his passions, both in the academy where he was a revered professor and in the political world where he was the best cheerleader a politician could have. His spirit also enlivened other fields: book collecting, Northwest history, the library, chamber music, and more.

Seattle born and bred, Meade obtained his first name from a great-grandfather who was a personal friend of the Civil War hero General Meade. His grandfather, George Meade Emory, came to Seattle as a young lawyer and became a judge. A step-grandfather, Charles Poe, was the first law clerk to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  His father, Frederick Emory, was also a lawyer, and a founder of a predecessor firm to Davis Wright Tremaine.

With this history, Meade had little choice but to rebel, and he did a fine job of that as a young man.  After graduating from the University of Washington, he attended law school at George Washington University.  As retribution for his own youthful indiscretions he was a Capitol Hill cop during law school.

Tax law became his specialty.  He contributed to the finest texts on the subject, provided solid guidance to the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation as a staff member, and served as Assistant to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.  He loved to teach the law.  He was a peripatetic visiting professor, sometimes with his musically inclined wife Deborah and their three children, Ann, Campbell, and Elizabeth, in tow. Everywhere he went he made lifelong friends, mentored students, and is remembered with affection.  I had the great good fortune to be one of those students at UC Davis.

Back home in Seattle, Meade practiced law between stints visiting yet another law school. Meade believed in his students and celebrated their success.  In much the same way he supported candidates for office and worthy liberal causes.  Gathering checks for an aspiring office holder, Meade was a catalyst for more than one campaign.  The campaigns were always for Democrats and liberal causes.  Meade was an unrelenting, unashamed liberal to the end.  No Sunday was complete without a rant from Meade about the latest Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd column in The New York Times.

He was at heart a teacher.  There is a no nobler calling.  The UW School of Law, where he founded the graduate program in tax, unveiled a portrait of Meade at a ceremony a couple of years ago.  As he spoke in accepting the honor, he made reference to a school teacher from a small town in Montana.  His voice cracked with emotion as he described how that teacher had touched the life of a student, steeped in the classics, who had gone on to make a difference in the world.

He was thereby unwittingly describing himself and the significant impact he had upon his own students as they moved on into the world.


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