December 2012 Bar Bulletin
I've never been green, so I don't know if that's easy, but I do know it's not easy being first. Betty Binns Fletcher accomplished many "Firsts," some of which are better known than others.
Of course, we all know that she was the first woman president of the Seattle-King County Bar Association. Most know that she was the first woman governor of the Washington State Bar Association. Less well-known is the fact that she was the first woman member of the Rainier Club.
She graduated first in her law school class at the University of Washington - one of three women. She was a member of the first all-woman panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals. At her memorial, I also learned that she was a member of the first all-woman group to hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in 1941.
But it feels inadequate to define Betty by her record of "Firsts." To me, her enduring legacy is that she remained true to herself. She was compassionate, clear-eyed, brutally honest, indefatigable, and had a great sense of humor. She also had great admiration for the generations of younger women who have expanded the ranks of lawyers, judges and bar leaders, and inspired great loyalty and affection in return.
She was one of a kind.
- Judge Mary Alice Theiler
To start with, Betty was so clear and intelligent. It was a pleasure to talk with her about what the Bar needed to do and how it needed to do it. At the same time, she had an ever-present and very appropriate sense of humor - including an occasional laugh on her.
She made what was, simply, a special and major contribution to the work of the Association and we all received the benefit of her thoughtful and conscientious contribution.
- Bill Gates
Betty was a GIANT at the Bar. In my salad days, when I chaired the Young Lawyers Section of the King County Bar and then chaired the Young Lawyers Committee of the Washington State Bar, young lawyers led a powerful reform movement to move the profession to an understanding that we had an obligation to not only the profession, but also to the public.
Betty was always an eager ally. She spoke out often and effectively in corridors of power in support of our efforts and was one of the most memorable speakers at the Washington State Bar Association convention where our reforms were debated - along with Bill Gates Sr. and the late Bill Dwyer.
One of Betty's concerns was the holding of meetings in male-only clubs. I remember the president of the WSBA commenting that as far as he was concerned he would welcome her in the Rainier Club and joining him in the steam room.
- Llew Pritchard