WERSON, James B. On December 29, 2016, Jim Werson celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends, showing all the dignity, wit and grace that made him such a rare and widely respected man. Today we note his passing and honor again his most extraordinary life. Jim was a remarkable figure for a remarkable time. From humble roots, he became a star athlete and scholar at Cal, a trusted agent for the FBI, founder of a major law firm and leader within the legal profession. Above all, he was a man devoted to his family and a mentor to scores of young lawyers. He shaped his times as much as they shaped him and will be missed by all who knew him. Jim was born in Montana and, after losing his father while a boy, moved with his mother to Alameda, California. Undaunted by the Great Depression, Jim worked his way through the University of California at Berkeley. There he began a lifelong love of competitive swimming. Undefeated in the 200m breaststroke during his Cal varsity career, he won the national AAU breaststroke title in 1938 and toured Europe on the eve of World War II as a member of the U.S. National Team, graduating in 1938. A lifelong supporter of Cal sports, he served as president of the Big C Society and was elected to the Cal Hall of Fame. Shortly after World War II broke out, Jim graduated from Boalt Hall law school ('42) and immediately joined the FBI, spending the next years engaged in the Bureau's critical war effort. He never lost the deep patriotism and devotion to country that those years instilled. After the War, Jim joined Walter Severson to form the firm that still bears his name: "Severson & Werson." He served as the growing financial services industry's trusted counsel helping guide development of California consumer protection laws. He was a founder of the American Financial Services Association Law Committee, including top financial services lawyers from across the country. Jim's clients included the country's major banks, finance companies and automobile finance arms of the major auto companies. Jim was first and foremost a husband, father, grand- and great-grandfather. He was preceded by his cherished first wife Elspeth, and survived by their three dear daughters, Sallie Werson, Janet Yantis and Alice Mary Werson. Jim is also survived by his beloved wife, Aletha, his chief delight and comfort, traveling companion and ally for the last 20 years and by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren in whom he took so much joy. As he blew out the candles while the crowd sang on the 29th, Jim said with his usual wry smile "you haven't seen anything yet." Surely we will not see his like again.
Published in Press Democrat from Jan. 15 to Jan. 16, 2017.