William M. 'Bill' Brinton, Member of the Greatest Generation, Civic Leader, Attorney, Publisher, Soccer Fanatic, Environmental Activist and Incredible Husband and Father, died peacefully in San Francisco with his family nearby July 10, 2010. He was 90 years old. He is survived by his wife Mary Jane Brinton and his children William W. Brinton, P. Delia Brinton, Katherine D. B. Crawford, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Barbra D. B. Paulson. His death was caused by complications resulting from Lewy Body Dementia.
He was born in Englewood, NJ, May 16, 1920 to Benjamin and Cordelia Brinton. Bill attended Englewood Elementary school and graduated from the Choate School in Wallingford, CT in 1938. He graduated in the Yale Class of 1942 and went on to the University of Virginia Law School, earning a JD degree in 1946.
On July 10, 1943, he married Mary Jane Deere Wiman and immediately enlisted in the Navy as an airman. He was stationed on the carrier USS Princeton in the Pacific. He survived the sinking of the ship in 1944, and was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries and valor.
Bill and his wife moved to San Francisco in 1948. He remained a lawyer until the 1980's. He initially worked with the Lillick, McHose, & Charles firm and went on to spend the majority of his career with Kelso, Cotton, Seligman & Ray, in San Francisco.
Civic Duty called and in 1955 he ran for the office of Supervisor on a platform of low income housing, reduction of government interference in business operations and development of mass transit. He was an early proponent of what became BART. His dream
of being an elected public servant was sadly not to be realized as he lost by a close margin to another candidate for Supervisor of San Francisco. But his skills and abilities had been noticed and Mayor Shelley appointed him to the San Francisco Planning Commission where he served in the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Also about this time, Bill developed a passion for soccer. Bill and two others brought professional soccer to the Bay Area in the mid 1960's as founders of the Oakland Clippers.This team brought the first ever national professional championship in any sport to
His passion for Civic and environmental matters continued as he focused in on the high cost of affordable housing in the Bay Area. In 1983 he anonymously provided the seed capital to the BRIDGE Housing group, which has become California's leading developer and manager of affordable housing. BRIDGE has developed more than 13,000 homes for working families. He was honored by BRIDGE and his identity, as the anonymous donor that gave BRIDGE its start, was finally revealed at the recent 25th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco.
He was actively involved with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund for many years. From day one this group used the law to even the odds against powerful special interests, putting the organization at the center of major environmental issues. Bill always believed strongly in the rule of law as the best tool for attaining social order and orderly change.
In 1985, having left the practice of Law entirely, he founded Mercury House as an independent trade book publishing company. Mercury House, which later became a nonprofit corporation, has published many books by notable authors covering varied topics
including reprints of neglected literary classics. For several years Mercury House was the official publisher of the Nobel Prize Lecture and the National Society of Film Critics' annual compendium of reviews.
Throughout his life in San Francisco he was an active member in several clubs that reflected his varied interests. Among them were The Pacific Union Club, The San Francisco Golf Club, The St. Francis Yacht Club and The Valley Club of Montecito. Bill will be greatly missed by his loving family, close friends and many whose lives he and his efforts have touched. His ideas and organizations remain vibrant and important today. There will be a memorial service for family and friends on Friday, July 16th at 11:00 AM at St. Mary the Virgin Church, located at the corner of Union and Steiner in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that any of the organizations with which he was associated could be considered for donations in his memory: The Mental Health Association of San Francisco, Earthjustice (Successor to Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), BRIDGE Housing, and the University of California San Francisco Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jul. 14 to Jul. 15, 2010.