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On October 19, 2012, Judge Walter Harrington went to sleep for the last time, ending a long and brave struggle with a failing heart.
Born in San Francisco on August 14, 1926, Walter lived in the city for the first six years of his life and settled in Woodside, California. He graduated from Sequoia High School and continued his education at Stanford University with a BS in engineering. His education was interrupted to serve the country in World War II. He entered law school at Hastings College of Law, graduating with highest honors (Order of the Coif, Thurston Society) in 1952.
Walter began his career as a Deputy Legislative Counsel in Sacramento from 1953 - 1955, drafting new laws for the State Legislature to consider, but longed to return to the Bay Area and Peninsula. In 1955, he relocated to Redwood City, accepting a job as Deputy District Attorney for San Mateo County. From the District Attorney office, Walter transitioned to private practice in 1962, where he devoted his services to civil and business litigation for over 22 years. In 1984, he was appointed to be a Judge for the San Mateo County Municipal Court, where he acted as Presiding Judge and Supervising Civil Judge over his years in service to the County. In 1990, he received highest honors of being elected to the San Mateo County Superior Court. Here he served many roles, including Assistant Presiding Judge, Presiding Judge, Probate and Mental Health Judge, Civil Law and Motion Judge, Civil Case Management and Settlement Judge and Chair of the Court Technology Committee. Upon his retirement in 1996, he was commended by the San Mateo Board of Supervisors for his service as a veteran of World War II; his founding of the law firm of Harrington, Knight and Smith; his writing and editing skills as Publishing Director, Chairman and Editor of the California State Bar Journal and editor of The Docket; his contributions as President of the San Mateo County Bar Association, Chair of the San Mateo County Criminal Justice Council and President of the San Mateo County Legal Aid Society; his being instrumental in bringing about the consolidation of the Superior and Municipal Courts as Presiding Judge of the Superior Court in 1995; and his distinction of being the judge who looks most like a judge, often referred to as "the judge from Central Casting". Walter had many honors for the advancement of the legal profession and was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Walter placed a great deal of value on his family and friends and enjoyed celebrations that included plenty of singing, mirth and laughter. He was married to Barbara Bryant in 1952 and together they had two daughters. The oldest, Stacey Harrington, lives in Kenmore, Washington and is married to Craig Beesley. The younger daughter, Sara Harrington, lives in Atherton and like her father, practices law. Walter and Barbara divorced in 1971.
Sunshine returned to Walter's life when he met Hertha Gauck, a probation officer, in a courtroom at Hillcrest and they were later married in 1974. They enjoyed 38 years of marriage that was filled with great humor, respect and congeniality.
Walter enjoyed playing his guitar and singing as part of a barbershop quartet with the Quackateers in Woodside, California. He was dedicated to the Stanford football program and was a big fan of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Walter is survived by Hertha Harrington, Stacey Harrington, Sara Harrington and many other family and friends. He will be missed by all who had the privilege and honor of having known him.
A Memorial Service is being planned after the first of the New Year in the Original Courthouse in Redwood City, California. Donations can be made to San Mateo Legal Aid Society (http://www.legalaidsmc.org/).
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 18, 2012