Meade Emory, 'Seattle's Atticus Finch,' dies at 79

Lawyer, deeply engaged in politics, mainstay of our cultural life: it will be hard to imagine Seattle without Meade Emory.

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Meade Emory: a life well and usefully lived.

Lawyer, deeply engaged in politics, mainstay of our cultural life: it will be hard to imagine Seattle without Meade Emory.

The smiling visage of Meade Emory, wearing his signature hat and bow tie, shone out at us this week among Seattle Times obituaries.  Emory, 79, passed away last Friday surrounded by his loving family.

Meade Emory was a Seattle fixture.  He and his wife Deborah, above all, savored life.  They could be seen at the opera, at Town Hall, at the Seattle Chamber Music Society (which he founded), at book, political, and University of Washington events, and at picnics and poetry readings.  Emory for a number of years presided over the Block Table (named after the late Bob Block, a committed Seattle liberal), a periodic gathering of middle-aged and above Democrats which rallies at the First Avenue McCormick & Schmick's to needle guest speakers and enjoy each other's company.

I first met Meade Emory in the early 1950s, when a University of Washington fraternity brother, a Garfield High friend of Meade's, introduced us at a Seattle party.  Meade, as I, already was a Democratic political junkie and was working as a U.S. Capitol policeman, courtesy of Sen. Warren Magnuson, while attending George Washington University and its law school.   Over his lifetime he had many stories to tell about the colorful Senators he encountered during that period.

Later Meade would serve on the staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation and as an assistant IRS commissioner.  He taught tax law for many years at the University of Washington Law School and as a visiting professor at several leading national universities.

Beyond his official vitae, his many Seattle and other friends knew Meade to be an engaged man.  He read everything, was prepared to discuss and debate any public issue, and also was a walking library of information about all Seattle-related things and persons. (He was also an avid collector of books, especially those on the Northwest.) On his many visits to Washington, D.C., he stayed at the Cosmos Club, where we would meet for breakfast or dinner.  We enjoyed together the Democratic national conventions of 1988, in Atlanta, and of 2000, in Los Angeles.  He missed no reception or social event at those conventions.  During that Los Angeles convention he convinced me to move from Santa Monica, where I was leading a comfortable teaching-and-writing life, back to my home turf of Seattle.

Shortly after his retirement from the University of Washington Law School, Meade was beset by physical ailments, including Alzheimer's, which caused the Emorys to retire early in 2009 to Bayview Manor.  Though in recent months mainly confined to bed, and beset with Alzheimer's, Meade continued to receive visitors, to read, and to engage in political gossip.  When I last saw him, a month ago, he was aware of the major political races to be decided Nov. 2.

My partner Jeri first met Meade 10 years ago.  At the time, she had been ill for several years and gotten behind on IRS filings.  Meade referred her to a tax attorney who resolved her problems with a minimum of time and effort.  Then, and on subsequent occasions, she said of Meade:  "Meade is Atticus Finch."

Yes, he was a man and attorney of character and honor.  It is hard to imagine him on the wrong side of any issue.  It is also hard to imagine Seattle in his absence.  He loved Seattle and, in return, was loved by the most engaged citizens of his city.  His memorial service Friday, at St. Mark's Cathedral, no doubt will be attended by those same citizens. His was a life well and usefully lived.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Ted Van Dyk

Ted Van Dyk

Ted Van Dyk has been active in national policy and politics since 1961, serving in the White House and State Department and as policy director of several Democratic presidential campaigns. He is author of Heroes, Hacks and Fools and numerous essays in national publications. You can reach him in care of