In Memory of Brian Booth


With the death of Brian Booth on March 7, 2012, Tonkon Torp lost a founding partner, treasured colleague, mentor and friend.

Brian had all the credentials you would expect of one of the state's leading corporate and business attorneys: a law degree from Stanford, editor of the Stanford Law Review, leadership awards from the Oregon State Bar, and years of being named to The Best Lawyers of America® and Chambers USA America's Leading Lawyers for Business, both acknowledgements based on rigorous evaluations by professional peers and clients.

In his corporate, securities, and mergers & acquisitions practice, Brian represented some of Oregon's most prominent companies, from forest products to athletic wear. He was counsel to Nike, Inc., for its initial public offering, and over the subsequent three decades, he continued to manage the firm's work on behalf of Nike and to mentor the next generation of attorneys. Brian gently used his status as a founding partner to illuminate the firm's values, always leading by example.

While Brian's legal skills were second to none, we will remember him most as a Renaissance man with wide ranging interests and remarkable energy. A fourth generation Oregonian, Brian was tireless in his commitment to preserve and celebrate our state's natural and cultural heritage. He chaired the boards of five statewide organizations: the Oregon Parks Commission; Oregon Institute of Literary Arts; Portland Art Museum; Oregon Health Sciences University Foundation; and the University of Oregon Art Museum. He served on other boards in support of education, child services and healthcare. At the time of his death, he was on the boards of the Nature Conservancy, the Oregon Council for the Humanities, Crater Lake National Parks Trust and the Multnomah County Library Foundation. These weren't token commitments.Brian was always willing to put in the real work required to grow organizations and help them realize their potential.

Photo (by Ross William Hamilton) is courtesy of The Oregonian.

Brian once said, "One of the purposes of life is to create something, and leave the world with something you helped to create." He co-founded the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. He led the creation of book awards and fellowship programs for Oregon writers in what is now part of Oregon Literary Arts. He put his own love of writing to work, editing "Wildmen, Wobblies & Whistle Punks: Stewart Holbrook's Lowbrow Northwest" in 1992. It was a reflection of his intellect and his deep love for all things Oregon.

His service to the community and the state is reflected in the awards and honors bestowed on Brian, individually or in conjunction with his wife, Gwyneth. Just a few include the Portland First Citizen Award, the SOLV Tom McCall Leadership Award, the Stewart H. Holbrook Award for outstanding contributions to Oregon's literary life, and the Aubrey A. Watzek Award from Lewis & Clark College. While Brian appreciated each of these honors, they were incidental to the pleasure he got from leading and motivating and nudging people all around Oregon to cherish the things that make this place special for all of us. That's the legacy he has left, and nothing would make him happier than to know that each of us will try to leave the world with something we have helped to create.



Comments, Memories, and Tributes

Gwyneth: I just learned of Brian's passing in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin. I am very sorry for your loss and the loss to Oregon. You are in our prayers. Jim Durham
-James W. Durham

Brian was a kind, motivating and inspirational senior partner for whom I had the privilege to work. His imprint on my career continues to serve me well. Rest peacefully, Brian. My sincerest condolences to Brian’s family and everyone at Tonkon Torp.
-Jennifer Lefere

Many knew Brian for his legal brilliance, support for the arts, quick wit, and devotion to Gwyneth. I came to know him for his support of equity in education. When our paths would cross during the time I was serving as a principal in Portland Public schools, Brian would ask specific questions about the challenges of leading inner city schools and how he and others could help. When my students encountered specific racial taunts at a state-wide athletic event, Brian and Gwyneth were strong supporters of the students' newly-formed student equity group and their subsequent tour of civil rights and Historical Black Colleges in the South. Brian's encouragement to speak out against inequities in education made him a hero to me and to many students he would never know but in whom he believed.
-Deborah Peterson, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy, PSU

A true gentleman; a giant of a lawyer, friend and man! In the end what matters are family, friends and memories and he left many. Thanks Brian for your example which only a very few can match.
-Peter Richter

From the time I was just his bartender, I kept learning of the outstanding depth of intellect and character of Brian Booth. I am still in shock at his passing, but even after his passing, I continue to discover even more gifts Brian has given to the people of Oregon and the World. Thank you Brian. I have never met a human being I respect and admire more than you.
-Bud Clark

Of all his accomplishments, Brian never violated the fifth rule, that of taking himself too seriously. I will miss him greatly.
-Brett Hyland

Brian's legacy to Oregon, and the future citizens of our state, can be measured in many ways. But none will be more enduring than his commitment and leadership to establish a dedicated funding source for our great state park system. As a result, Oregon's park system has undergone over a decade of improvements and expansion that has preserved many of our state's scenic, natural and historic treasures. Memories of Brian's contributions are fondly recalled frequently by staff and those who had the pleasure of working with him during his tenure as Chair of the State Parks Commission.
-Tim Wood - Director, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

I'm deeply sorry to hear of Brian Booth's passing. I worked at Tonkon Torp in the mid-1980s as a proofreader and still remember my time there fondly. In particular, Brian always made me feel valued and expressed great support for me in my true vocation (music). He was a kind, funny and fascinating person and my heart goes out to his family, friends and colleagues.
-Susan Stenger

I never met Brian Booth, but we spoke on the phone every so often about the work of the poet William Everson and his group who were incarcerated in the Waldport, OR camp for conscientious objectors during WWII. He collected books and materials from that era, as I do, and we enjoyed discussing the subject. My daughter lives in Portland, and on one of my regular visits we were planning to get together. I just emailed him today, to tell him of a roundtable discussion I would be leading on Everson next Monday at the book Club of California, when I received back the reply that he had passed. I am shocked and saddened by the loss and extend my condolences to his family. He was a wonderful conversationalist, and I cannot believe that we will never meet as planned. Sincerely, George Fox
-George Fox

I was in New York City when I learned via text from a Portland friend about Brian's passing. I was more than sad, especially since I hadn't spoken with him recently. My memories of Brian are of a gentle, giant, smart soul who would always take time to really listen, to offer sage advice and to share his enthusiasm for literature and the amazing artworks he and Gwyn collected over the years. His love for the state and deep knowledge of all the characters who made Oregon Oregon were unsurpassed. His love for Gwyneth was so obvious and infectious and their home is a work of art in itself.I lost both of my parents in the last few years and though Brian and Gwyn didn't know them, I received the kindest note from Gwyn when I happened to share with her the eulogy I gave for my father. They are just quality people through and through and my thoughts are with the family, some of whom I don't even know. Much love, Mark
-Mark A. Woolley, gallerist and friend

Brian was also a conservation hero -- perhaps the most influential citizen advocate of his generation for preserving Oregon's spectacular parks and natural areas. After serving as the first chair of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in the 1990s, Brian continued to lead the fight for stable funding for parks the rest of his life. He insisted that funding our parks and natural heritage should never take a back seat to other budget needs. His legacy includes Oregon's permanent dedication of a portion of lottery funds for parks and wildlife. Oregon's conservation community will miss him deeply. We'll miss the vision, intelligence, passion and integrity he always brought to deliberations about Oregon's future. He richly deserves to be remembered for his many gifts to Oregon. I can think of no more fitting tribute than to name one of Oregon's beautiful new state parks in his honor. Russell Hoeflich Oregon Director The Nature Conservancy.
-Russell Hoeflich

Brian Booth brought Oregon's literary and artistic life to the fore. he helped us to realize that the best writing about Oregon's places and people enlarges our understanding of what it means to us to be human. See Brian's recent publication,"Davis Country: H. L. Davis's Northwest" (OSU Press, 2009).
-Glen Love, Emeritus Professor of English, U of Oregon

Brian, you were always there. If I called for legal help, if I called to ask you for personal assistance, if I called just for advice for family and friends, you were always there. Even just to chat. Your friendship, concern and care, for me, and for our firm and our people will be missed immensely. This void for us and for Oregon will never be filled again. Thank you will never be enough.
-Dave Evans

Brian, your gentlemanly nature, always with a smile, went well with your quick wit, It veiled your broad grasp of intellectual and artistic pursuits, soon discovered by those around you. Your far-sighted vision and leadership inspired the gifts of many creative people and enriched the lives of those who were rewarded. Your legal skills were among all of the rest, highly developed and widely respected. We miss you Brian.
-Don Marmaduke

Over the course of 25 years of cumulative service, Brian brought unique intellect, wit and advocacy to the OHSU Foundation board, including two years as chair. He had served actively on the OHSU Cancer Institute council from 2000 until the present, and his advice and guidance were instrumental in securing vital private support for what is now the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Our thoughts are with Gwyneth and the rest of Brian’s family as we mourn the loss of one of OHSU’s most stalwart friends.
-Constance French, Interim President, OHSU Foundation

Brian was an outstanding citizen, friend and lawyer... However, his sensitivity and kindness to all will remain in the forefront of my thoughts and memories of him... He was quick witted and so very bright... Both he and Gwyneth made enormous contributions of themselves to Portland and the State of Oregon. I am so very sad...
-Mary Roberts

Brian's contribution to Oregon culture is difficult to overstate. As our founder, he helped create a program that has helped hundreds and hundreds of writers thrive over the past 25 years. Of course, Brian's contributions were also significant in the legal community, and in our larger cultural life. This is a huge blow for us all right now, and only in the coming days and months will we be able to reconcile this enormous loss.
-Andrew Proctor, Executive Director, Literary Arts


The Oregonian
March 29, 2012
Brian Geddes Booth - Obituary

The Oregonian
March 7, 2012
Oregonians mourn Brian Booth, founding partner of Portland's Tonkon Torp law firm and community leader
by Steve Duin

Oregon Public Broadcasting
March 7, 2012
Major Arts Leader Brian Booth Dies After Bout With Cancer
by Rob Manning

Willamette Week
March 7, 2012
Brian Booth, Legal and Literary Lion, Dies
by Nigel Jaquiss

Bend Bulletin
March 9, 2012
Longtime Nike Lawyer Founded Literary Awards
by The Associated Press


The Oregonian
March 11, 2012
Letter to the Editor
by Russell Hoeflich

Oregon State Parks
April 4, 2012
Honoring Brian Booth
by The Oregon State Parks Team

Daily Journal of Commerce
Briefly Legal PDX
April 12, 2012
A Writer's Thanks to Brian Booth
by Stephanie Basalyga

The Oregonian
April 12, 2012
The Brian Booth Memorial: A Huge Force for all Things Oregon
by Steve Duin