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Linda Louise Blackwelder Pall ’67

April 29, 2018, in Moscow, Idaho, in her sleep.

Attorney, activist, teacher, mother, mentor, and friend, Linda imparted fierce devotion to justice, inclusion, and community, and gave others strength they didn’t know they had.
As a child, Linda moved with her family from Virginia to The Dalles, Oregon, where she graduated valedictorian of her high school class. From a young age she was interested in music and the arts and became an avid flutist and pianist. As her talent progressed, she began taking the bus to Portland for lessons and eventually earned a chance to play with the Portland Symphony. Linda’s passion for jazz, baroque, and woodwind quintets was matched by her passion for learning. She began at Reed as a philosophy major and wrote her thesis, “Reflections on the Problem of Obligation,” with Prof. Robert Paul [philosophy 1966–96] advising. This was followed by a master’s degree in philosophy of science from the University of London. While in England, Linda lectured in liberal studies at Kingston Polytechnic.
One of her favorite Reed professors was Robert Reynolds [physics 1963–2008], who remembered, “When she was still a Reed student, Linda Blackwelder impressed my wife, Ellen, and me as a force of nature. Her academic, musical, and calligraphic skills were manifest, as was her prodigious energy. Later, we enjoyed visits to her student digs in London, to her mother Dorothy’s home in The Dalles, and to her Portland residence as Linda Pall, wife of biologist Martin Pall. Her subsequent multi-faceted academic careers, political offices, and campaigns were stunning, as was her decade-long refusal to succumb to her illness. Late one night in my Reed office, I tuned to the local NPR station only to hear Linda initiating a conversation with Vladimir Putin. She invited him to visit Moscow (Idaho). He demurred, citing the large number of U.S. cities with Russian names. Her chutzpah, however, was totally unsurprising.”
Linda met her husband, Martin, while teaching at Portland State University. The couple moved to Moscow, Idaho, in 1972, and two years later welcomed their son Zachary.
“Many years ago, Linda adopted Judaism as her religion, and brought up Zach as a Jew, religiously,” Prof. William Peck [philosophy 1961–2002] said. “I asked her if there were any Jews in her family; she replied, ‘Blackwelder?! That’s half an anglicization of the German word for people from the Black Forest (Schwarzwälder). I’ve been there—they’re all Catholics.’ I forget what led her to start going to Jewish services, but she was impressed.”
Linda stayed home during Zach’s early years, and when he became a preschooler, she saw the need in the community for a preschool/kindergarten. As she did with so many projects, Linda dug in and helped to found the Moscow Day School. This was the beginning of a long and dedicated commitment to improve the Moscow community. As Zach grew older, Linda became active in city politics. She served as a city council member from 1977 to 1983, working tirelessly for community and progressive causes, including land use policies, local arts programs, downtown revitalization, a farmer’s market, library development, and historic preservation of buildings like Moscow’s Old Post Office, the 1912 Building, and the Carnegie Library.
To nurture her love of education and passion for politics and government, Linda earned both a master’s degree and a PhD in political science at Washington State University. While working on her PhD, she also enrolled in the University of Idaho, graduating from law school in 1985. After passing the bar, she set about building a practice in family law, employment law, and civil rights, in addition to a general civil practice.
Linda loved being involved in local government, and 10 years after her first stint on Moscow’s City Council, she ran again, serving from 1993 to 2001. After a narrow defeat in 2001, she was returned to a four-year seat on the council in 2003.
She worked in Lewiston, Idaho, until 1996, when she opened a solo practice in her beloved Moscow, where she practiced until her death. She taught Idaho State Bar courses and section events, served as a three-time vice president of the Second Bar District, and helped found several sections of the state bar, including the Family Law Section and the Diversity Section. Linda was also a prime mover in a series of civil rights seminars and celebrations to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights, including major symposia in 2011 and 2016, with nationally distinguished speakers and programs to facilitate young people’s appreciation for the rule of law and the traditions of the Bill of Rights in everyday America.
Prof. Peck was on the panel of speakers and remembered, “She wanted at least one nonlawyer on her panel and thought of me. I couldn’t say no, though I had to do some pretty fast studying to try to get up to speed for the discussions. I told them and our audience, mostly law students, that most of us don’t want a lot to do with lawyers, that litigation is only one way to solve social problems, and that legal solutions and procedures only work well when what some people call ‘civil society’ is in good shape—i.e., the network of nonlegal and nongovernmental agencies and institutions, e.g., churches, that connect people and support cooperation. It was a very exhilarating experience, as was the many hours I turned out spending with Linda during that event, notably an all-night drive from Moscow to Boise along with an ACLU lawyer who had flown in from D.C. for the symposium. I prompted her to talk to keep awake, and she practically recited her life story. That was Linda all the way. I’m very sorry indeed that I won’t see her again. I know I won’t see her like again.”
In 2013, after 26 years of teaching at Washington State University and a year of serious illness, Linda retired from teaching and as coordinator of business law for the College of Business at WSU. For nearly a decade she had been living with primary pulmonary hypertension—a terminal condition—and had been recently diagnosed with uterine cancer and acute kidney failure. She was in and out of hospitals and care facilities, at death’s door, and as she put it, “doing hand-to-hand combat with the grim reaper on a daily basis.” Linda emerged a fierce advocate for improved diagnostic services for patients with rare, orphan diseases like PAH. She founded the Inland Northwest Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Support Group, Inc., which, in addition to lobbying Congress for research funds for NSF and other research organizations, formed a steering committee to establish a center at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University, Spokane, to give medical students education and opportunities to hone their skills in the diagnostics of this complicated and difficult disease.
During the first week of dialysis, Linda lost 50 pounds of water weight, and as the weeks went by, more weight came off. Following physical and occupational therapy, she gained strength, became more confident, and was able to return home. She began gardening with a vengeance. “I thought I better do something since I was given time,” she said. “I may be a short-timer, but I feel better than I have for years.”
Linda volunteered for the Moscow Board of Adjustment, advocated for sensible town planning with a local citizens group, and was active in Democratic Party politics. She was a chair of the county Democratic Party in the ’70s and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Jimmy Carter in 1980. In 2000, she secured the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District and went on to face Lt. Gov. Butch Otter that fall. Otter went to Congress and Linda returned to her law practice and the town that she loved. A longtime member of the county’s human rights task force, she was the prime mover in the creation of the City of Moscow’s Human Rights Commission. Her devotion and commitment were acknowledged with numerous civic and human rights awards, including Idaho Politician of the Year, the Access to Justice Award from the Idaho State Bar Association, and the Eva Lassman Take Action Against Hate Award from Gonzaga University. Moscow honored her in 2008 with Linda Pall Day.
In addition to her volunteer work, Linda found time to take photographs and had public exhibitions in Moscow, Idaho, and Kansas City, Missouri. She was a calligrapher since taking courses with Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English & art 1929–69] at Reed.
“We were somewhat consoled to learn that her last evening was spent in relaxed dining and conversation with her beloved son Zachary,” said Prof. Bob Reynolds.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2018

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