In Memoriam

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Richard J. Brownstein ’52

A picture of Richard Brownstein

Richard J. Brownstein ’52, January 24, 2011, in Portland, from a heart attack. Dick was at Reed for two years before leaving to begin his study of law at Willamette University. In his eulogy for his father, son Richard J. Brownstein II ’85 related: “Certainly, one of my grandmother's favorite stories was how, during my father's second year at Reed, he visited law schools, including Willamette. Apparently, at that time, students could go to law school without an undergraduate degree. When my father asked to take the test at Willamette, he was told that the Willamette policy had changed and they now required an undergraduate degree. Whether apocryphal or accurate, my father begged to take the test, was granted his wish, and scored the highest in school history. Willamette made an exception for my dad, letting him matriculate. In any case, apocryphal or not, my father finished law school and was practicing law by the time he was 21 years old.” Dick earned a BL and an LLB from the university and practiced in Portland for 20 years with the firm that was ultimately named White, Sutherland, Brownstein & Parks. In 1955, he married Betty Baer. Dick was committed to human rights, as was his close friend Fred Rosenbaum ’50, and received appointment and tenure as general counsel of the Housing Authority of Portland (1960–2004). He served as chairman with the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission and was appointed to the Oregon Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Said Richard: “My father had a simple, but effective two-pronged tool set: he was an analytical genius and he was morally grounded. In both regards, he was uncanny. Put Mr. Spock and Mr. Gandhi together and you had my dad, at least from my detached perspective. My father could look at any situation-quite unemotionally-and then find the best practical solution, remembering, the whole time, his very humble beginnings. This explains why Dad was more prideful having been the attorney for 30 years for the Housing Authority of Portland than he was for having served congressmen.” For 33 years, Dick served in the Judge Advocate General Corps for the U.S. Army Reserve, rising to the rank of colonel. He also was president of Portland Lodge B'nai B'rith, vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, president of the Institute of Judaic Studies, a board member of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, and a president of Congregation Neveh Shalom. Dick participated in Reed's alumni association. He enjoyed distance running and competed in 19 marathons, including in Boston and New York. In his public obituary, we read: “Dick was a consummate storyteller whose infectious laugh could frequently be heard during the intermission of the opera at the Schnitz, in the restaurants of the University Club, or at the table sharing dinner with friends.” Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Donna; two sons and a daughter; two stepsons; and a sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2011

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