Harold G. Christensen|
When can their glory Fade?
Oh the wild charge they made!
On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, Harold Graham Christensen passed away peacefully at home after a stoic battle with cancer and thus began the next step beyond a life well-lived. Hal was born June 25, 1926, in Springville, Utah to Harold (Tracey) Christensen and Ruby Darling Graham. He grew up across the street from the venerable Springville Art Museum, which instilled in him a love of art-especially as it depicted the life and landscapes of Utah. Throughout his life, Hal collected art for both personal appreciation and as curator of a collection for his firm, Snow Christensen & Martineau. He worked for his pharmacist father in the family drug store with his older sister Helen and younger sister Connie. He had dogs and cats that he loved, as well as a horse he named Dot.
Hal joined the navy at 17, where he served as a medic-a position that would encourage him to spout often-erroneous medical facts later in life. The navy was a stern upbringing, but he appreciated the discipline, independence and chance to expand his horizons. No one is quite sure how he earned his naval nickname "Weapon," but Hal quietly relished it.
Back from the Navy, Hal pursued his love: The Law. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah and his law degree at the University of Michigan, graduating with honors. He was Assistant Editor of the Michigan Law Review.
While completing his graduate degree, Hal met and married Gayle Sutton on June 17, 1950, in Salt Lake City. She worked as a secretary, supporting them through Hal's remaining studies. The couple had three children and remained married until her death, November 6, 1986.
After Michigan, Hal and Gayle returned to Salt Lake City. Gayle easily found work, but it was not so easy for Hal as a new lawyer. He took an unpaid job doing collections for attorney John Snow. This taught him some enduring truths, but gave him an opportunity for further employment. In 1967, Hal became a partner of the firm and its name changed to Skeen, Worsley, Snow & Christensen (the firm is now know as Snow Christensen & Martineau) . And the rest is, as they say, history.
Hal's practice included extensive trial work in the areas of securities, antitrust, complex commercial litigation, patent infringement, white collar crime, civil rights, personal injury, products liability and all areas of professional liability with primary emphasis upon legal malpractice. Hal worked with several high-profile, national clients including General Motors. He served as chairman of the board and president of the firm and held many other leadership positions. On weekends Hal spent time on the family ranch near Scofield. Ever the teacher, he would often take the young associates along to learn about fencing, ranching and other rough trades. In addition, they learned more about life and the law than they ever could in a courtroom.
Hal's practice was interrupted in 1988, when he was appointed Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He served under Attorney General Edwin Meese, III for President Ronald Reagan. Meese later resigned and Hal was briefly the acting Attorney General. Hal left for Washington in April thrilled with the opportunity and eager to venture headlong into this new chapter. After being carefully vetted by the FBI and confirmed by the Senate, Hal assumed his new post. He loved the atmosphere of Washington and being a "number two" in important meetings-including those of the president's cabinet-and social gatherings steeped in ceremony and protocol common in the nation's capital. On Friday, December 13, 1988-six months into this assignment-Hal married Jacquita Watson Corry, an Assistant Dean at the University of Utah College of Law, in the Deputy's Conference Room in the Department of Justice in Washington D.C.-a ceremony not performed there before or since.
At the end of his Deputyship, Hal took on a number of teaching assignments. He and Jacquita traveled to San Francisco where he was a professor at U.C. Hastings College of the Law (1990) and to Bond University in Queensland, Australia where he was a Distinguished Visiting Professor (1991). He was also a Practitioner in Residence at the University of Utah, College of Law (1991). After teaching he led the Litigation Division in the Utah Office of the Attorney General and then rejoined the firm in 1991 of counsel.
He remained an active participant in life at SCM until his death. He continued to practice law, but particularly enjoyed mentoring associates, telling stories (always with a teaching purpose) and offering advice to firm management.
The honors, awards and recognition that Hal has received are too numerous to mention in total. Highlights include: Award for Exceptional Service, Utah State Bar, 1980; Lawyer of the Year, Utah State Bar, 1984; Honorary Member, Order of the Coif, 1980; Life Member, Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, 1986; Amicus Curie Award for Service, Utah Judicial Counsel, 1992; Distinguished Service to the Federal Bar in Utah, 1998; Utah Trial Lawyer of the Year, Utah State Bar, 1999; Lifetime Achievement Award, Utah State Bar, 2006; Merit of Honor Award, Emeritus Alumni Board, University of Utah, 2010.
Hal has served as past president of the Salt Lake County Bar Association (1972) and the Utah State Bar (1975), as past state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers, charter president and honorary trustee of American Inn of Court I (1980), National Trustee of the American Inn of Court Foundation (1982-90) and member of the Large Complex Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association. He chaired the State Transition Team coordinating the consolidation of the Utah trial courts and served on the task force spearheading the construction of the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse. He wrote many articles for legal journals and the press and recently published, "Samurai Lawyer," a book on being a warrior litigator.
Hal, always prepared, died with the book "The World's Religions" by his side (he loved the questions). In practice, he was more of a Pagan than anything. Friends, family and colleagues will fondly remember his treatises on how ancient festivals and rites came to be usurped by Christians and others to form our current holidays. We will greatly miss this Thanksgiving's speech on harvest and putting the earth to bed for winter. He understood the purity of nature and looked to it to define all things. He loved Buddhism and held to the moment. He would have liked going out with the sun on the Winter Solstice.
Hal was predeceased by his parents, sisters and their husbands and his wife Gayle. He is survived by his children Steven Christensen, David Christensen (Leigh Tran) and Susan Christensen. Also surviving are his wife Jacquita and her children, Micquelle Corry, Shalimar Corry, Bevan Corry (Shamim Monshizadeh).
Our heartfelt thanks to the Intermountain Medical Center professionals, Dr. Scott Woller and their hospice staff Leslie, Ana and the rest. Appreciation also to the University of Utah doctors and nurses at a pivotal time.
A celebration of Hal's life will be held on Monday, November 19 at 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Starks Funeral Parlor 3651 South 900 East, Salt Lake City.
Messages of remembrance can be sent via www.starksfuneral.com. Donations may be made to the Harold G. Christensen Scholarship fund, set up to support aspiring lawyers (Wells Fargo Bank).
Published in Deseret News from Nov. 17 to Nov. 18, 2012