Ralph Clifford Walker Ralph Clifford Walker passed away in Marin County on December 22, 2012 after a short illness. He was born April 30, 1938 in Bradenton, Florida, raised in the Bradenton/Sarasota area and graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity. As a Navy Lt. (jg), Ralph proudly served his country as a "plank owner", an original crew member, of the carrier USS Kitty Hawk, and was introduced to San Francisco in late 1961 when the Kitty Hawk spent several months undergoing repairs at Hunter's Point.
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The many virtues of the Bay Area were not lost on Ralph and, upon discharge from the Navy in 1962, he enrolled at UC's Boalt Hall School of Law, commencing a lifelong passion for all things Cal. Ralph was elected Research Editor of the California Law Review, graduating in 1965 as a member of the Order of the Coif. He immediately joined Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (then Orrick, Herrington, Dahlquist & Sutcliffe), a small San Francisco firm tracing its roots back to the 1860's, and his name was etched on the entry door as its 26th and most junior lawyer.
Ralph made his mark quickly at Orrick and was named a partner in late 1971. Over the succeeding decades, Ralph was one of the driving forces in the success of the firm, now a global powerhouse with more than 1000 lawyers spread across most of the world's leading financial centers. As a young partner, he was active in hiring and developing many of the next generation of Orrick's outstanding lawyers, transmitting his signature values of excellence, problem solving and client service, while engendering a high level of camaraderie with his clients and with the attorneys on both sides of the table. Ralph was a leading corporate finance and real estate finance lawyer, representing many Wall Street investment banking institutions and a number of the major corporations located in California. An innovative thinker, he was on the cutting edge of many developments in real estate finance, and was the lead outside lawyer to Bank of America in the late 1970's in connection with the first-ever private mortgage securitization transactions. Ralph served on the Executive Committee at Orrick and held a number of other important administrative positions. After a distinguished career of more than 40 years at Orrick, Ralph retired in 2005.
Known for his wit as well as his wisdom, Ralph welcomed opportunities to display his penetrating humor. For many years at Orrick's annual getaway weekend at Silverado, Ralph would be the keynote speaker at the Saturday night dinner. Senior partners as well as significant others were not exempt as targets of Ralph's colorful awards, observations and gentle (sometimes) jabs. Ralph also oversaw, with characteristic humor, the firm's annual college football bowl pool, lamenting at every opportunity the absence of his beloved Bears. And Ralph's descriptions accompanying his many wine syndications made available to unsuspecting lawyers within the firm were required reading for even the teetotalers.
Ralph considered his biggest successes to be "off the legal playing field." His greatest joys were his wife Kathy, his children, and his grandchildren. He had an enormous capacity to love and to live life to the fullest, his ready wit and gregarious nature inspiring countless strong and lasting friendships, many of which were nurtured on his favorite golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula, North Carolina and, most of all, at his home course at Meadow Club, where he was a member for nearly 40 years. In addition to being a rather serious devotee of fine wines, Ralph was also an avid dog lover, particularly a long line of his beloved Springer Spaniels.
Growing up in Sarasota where he was a spring training batboy for the Red Sox, Ralph fell in love with baseball. He coached his boys through Ross Valley Little League, serving as league commissioner and constant and supportive presence on the diamond as well as the soccer fields and basketball s. Ralph and Kathy rarely missed one of their boys' games from the Little League days through college (Mark - Stanford soccer, and Tyler - Cal baseball), and few of Tyler's games as a SF Giant at AT&T Park were not witnessed first hand by Ralph and Kathy.
Predeceased by his parents (Dorothy Hefner Walker and Julius Clifford Walker) and his younger brother, James "Rocky" Walker, Ralph is survived by his wife of 41 years, Kathy Walker of Nicasio, daughter and son-in-law Laura and Dan Pellissier of Sacramento, son and daughter-in-law Mark and Sara Walker of Corte Madera, his grandchildren Ellie and John Walker of Corte Madera, son and daughter-in-law Tyler and Maria Walker - also a happily expected grandchild - of Berkeley, and a large and loving circle of family and friends.
Ralph will be fondly remembered as a man who was uncommonly kind, intelligent, loving, witty, gentle, gregarious, and generous. To know him was truly to love him.
There will be a memorial service to celebrate Ralph's life at one of his favorite places, Meadow Club in Fairfax, at 1:30pm on Thursday January 24th. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Ralph's name to Cal Baseball Foundation Inc., 1801 N. California Blvd, Suite 101, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, Guide Dogs for the Blind, P.O. Box 3950, San Rafael, CA 94912-3950, or the
. The family would also like to thank the wonderful nurses and lift coaches at Marin General Hospital for the incredible care and support they provided to Ralph and his family over the past few months.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 6, 2013