H. Blair White
August 2, 1927 - November 29, 2013
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|H. Blair White, an accomplished Chicago trial lawyer and leader in the prominent law firm of Sidley & Austin, died on November 29, 2013. He was 86 years old.
Mr. White spent his entire career with Sidley & Austin (now Sidley Austin LLP). He joined the practice in 1951 when there were only 41 lawyers in the firm. By the time he retired in 1994, he had helped transform Sidley into one of the largest and most distinguished law firms in the world. Mr. White was a member of the Management and Executive Committees at Sidley and served as Chairman of the Management Committee from 1980 until 1989. During his time as Chairman, the then Chicago-based office added locations in New York, Los Angeles, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East, reflecting Mr. White's vision of a law firm capable of serving multinational clients in their most complex and important legal matters across the globe.
In addition to his law practice, Mr. White was a long-time member of the Board of Directors of major corporations, including Kimberly-Clark Corporation, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company and DeKalb Genetics Corporation. He was very proud of his service as Chairman of the Board of now Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
However, Mr. White was first and foremost a trial lawyer and, despite his management responsibilities, he always maintained a very active practice that included more than 100 trials. Some of his most notable cases included representation of AT&T in its landmark antitrust litigation with MCI, which was widely viewed as an overwhelming victory for AT&T, and representation of Kimberly-Clark in a series of successful patent infringement cases against The Procter & Gamble Company that became known as the "Diaper Wars." He headed Sidley's Antitrust Litigation Group for many years and was a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.
"He was successful as a trial lawyer because he had a unique combination of skill, judgment and credibility. He tried enough cases to know the rules and to understand what worked in the courtroom - and what did not," said Charles W. Douglas, who worked with Mr. White for many years and is the current Chairman of Sidley's Management Committee.
Mr. White's memories of his career would center not on case victories, but on his relationships with his clients and his Sidley "team." "I have always thought that a key to his leadership was his desire to share success with those around him. He worked with a lot of talented people and he wanted all of them to be successful in their own right," said his son Brian J. White.
Mr. White was born in Burlington, Iowa on August 2, 1927. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and his Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law. "There was no bigger booster of the University of Iowa than my father," said Brian. "He never forgot where he came from." He has endowed the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the Iowa College of Law and he sponsors the White Family Hawkeye Scholarship Fund, which annually provides a full scholarship for a deserving and needy student from Burlington High School.
He met Joan Van Alstine while he was in law school and they began dating after they had both moved to Chicago. They were married in October, 1954, and recently celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. They spent countless hours discussing politics and traveled together all over the world.
The last twenty years of Mr. White's life were marked by a devastating stroke he suffered in 1994. Despite an initial prognosis that he would not survive and then that he would never walk, he rebounded to a level that permitted him to enjoy his remaining years. "He did not spend one minute feeling sorry for himself," said son Blair W. White. "I learned many things from my father, but none more important than the power of attitude to overcome the biggest difficulties we face in life." He enjoyed spending time at his home in Florida, Cubs baseball and University of Iowa athletics.
In addition to his wife Joan V. White of Northfield, Illinois, he is survived by sons Blair W. White of Larkspur, California (Martha D.) and Brian J. White of Chicago (Peggy S.), along with grandchildren Katherine E. White and Blair W. White of Larkspur, CA.