Olmstead, Cecil J.
Cecil Jay Olmstead, 92, of Westport, CT, passed away June 25, 2013. Of Counsel with the international law firm, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, in Washington, D.C., and former executive vice president of Texaco, Inc., he is recognized as one of the nation's leading authorities on international law, trade and arbitration. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, October 15, 1920, he was husband to the late Frances Louise Hughes Olmstead, of Brooklet, Georgia. Cecil served in WWII as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943-1946, serving with the 8th Air Force in the European Theater of Operations and with the 20th Air Force in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Cecil was a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia. After the war he attended the University of Georgia Law School, where he received his LLB. He then studied at Yale University Law School as a Sterling Graduate Fellow and graduated in 1952 with honors. In 1978, he received a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from the University of Hull, England, conferred by its Chancellor, the Right Honorable Lord Richard Wilberforce. While at the University of Georgia, Cecil was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Order of the Coif, the Gridiron Society, and Phi Delta Theta. Later he became a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the District of Columbia Bar, and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
His career began as Assistant to Legal Advisor, Adrian Fisher, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. An early assignment was to act as legal counsel to the commission on Organization of the U.S. Executive Branch (the Hoover Commission). He also taught law at American University in Washington, D.C., became a professor of law at New York University Law School and taught at Columbia University School of Law.
In 1961, Cecil became the Assistant to the Chairman of the Board of Texaco, Inc., and then an Executive Vice President of Texaco until 1980, when he joined the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, D.C., where he advised clients on international law, trade, arbitration and international investments.
Cecil had a distinguished career in international law, addressing significant issues of national sovereignty, relations among nation states, and the protection of persons and businesses under international law. He was a member of the Advisory Panel to the Secretary of State on International Law, a member of the Advisory Committee on The Law of the Sea, an Eisenhower lecturer at the National War College, a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Conference on the Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations and a member of the World Bank's panel of conciliators of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
He wrote and spoke extensively on issues of international law, including as an Associate Reporter to Mr. Fisher, American Law Institute Restatement, Foreign Relations Law of the United States, and later as the Wang Distinguished Visiting Professor at St John's University, a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University and as a visiting scholar at Yale University Law School.
During his career, Cecil received numerous honors and recognition for his legal work and contributions in the field of law, including the Gold Medal of the City of Brussels, Belgium, presented by the Mayor and the Gold Medal of the City of Paris, France, presented by Mayor, Jacques Chirac at the Hotel de Ville. At a ceremony held at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. in 1990, he was presented the insignia of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE, Hon.), an Order of Chivalry, as conferred by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his distinguished service to the United Kingdom.
For over fifty years, Cecil was a preeminent member of the International Law Association, headquartered in London, England. He was President of the American Branch of the ILA from 1962-1973 and served as President of the ILA from 1972-1974. Cecil was honored to receive the ILA's first Distinguished Service award in 2004 and at the time of his death was Patron of the ILA.
In August of 1972 while serving as both President of the ILA and its American Branch, Cecil organized and hosted its 55th biennial conference in New York City. This event brought together leading international lawyers, academics and members of governments and international organizations from around the world who were personally welcomed by Mayor John Lindsay. In addition to a comprehensive legal program there were special events held at the United Nations, Gracie Mansion (hosted by Mrs. John Lindsay), Lincoln Center, the Waldorf Astoria, and, on what turned out to be a particularly hot day, members were grateful to receive the hospitality of Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mr. David Rockefeller at the delightful family estate at Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, New York.
Cecil was a member of the American Law Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, the National Foreign Trade Council (of which he was director in 2004), the American Council on Germany (director and honorary director) and the Council on Ocean Law (director). New York City club memberships included the Knickerbocker Club and the Yale Club. He was also a member of the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., and the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, Connecticut.
In the words of a close friend and colleague, Cecil is remembered as "being one of the most well-read people on the planet, interested in everything, and able to offer an insightful or clever comment on nearly any topic of contemporary or historical foreign affairs, international law, or domestic politics. And when it came to humor and being playful, his incredible intellect was matched by his delight in telling a joke…even if it was not so good!"
Cecil thoroughly enjoyed family gatherings, especially on the Fourth of July and Christmas, and his enthusiasm for the New York Yankees was a perpetual source of excitement for him. He loved the theater, Jazz, playing tennis and traveling. Cecil's career took him and Frances all over the world. One of his most cherished memories was a summer trip they took to the Middle East. While in Beirut, they enjoyed the view of the Mediterranean Sea from their hotel balcony as they shared a bowl of fresh cherries. And, a very special occasion in Cecil's life was the 1993 celebration of his 50th wedding anniversary. A lovely party was held at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, and was attended by many family members and friends. To the delight to all, Cecil sang "It Had to Be You" to his darling Frances!
Preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Frances, he is survived by his four children, Cecil Jay Olmstead, III and wife, Beverly, of Houston, TX, Frank Hughes Olmstead and wife, Elaine, of Norwich, VT, Jane Olmstead Murphy of Greenville, SC (preceded in death by his son-in-law, Paul Thomas Murphy), and Amy Olmstead Vanecek and husband, David, of Fort Worth, TX; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; brother, Richard Olmstead, Sr. of Cocoa Beach, FL; nephew, Richard Olmstead, Jr. of Cocoa Beach, FL; and niece, Janice Lyn Olmstead Austin of Rockledge, FL.
Cecil's family is forever grateful to Elizabeth Begley, his loving and devoted caregiver of many years, and also thanks Sonia Johnson for her additional loving care these last two years. A memorial service will be held at a future date in Brooklet, Georgia. Tax deductible donations in Cecil's honor may be made to the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA): Ms. Seana Cuevas, c/o Munger, Tolles, Olson LLP, 335 South Grand Ave., 35th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071-1560
Published in Westport-News on Jul. 12, 2013.