August 2016 Bar Bulletin
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August 2016 Bar Bulletin

McMicken, Rupp & Schweppe — A Memoir
(Fifth in a Series)


When we last left you in June,
Mr. Rupp was introducing us to his firm’s various partners. Mr. Rupp writes during 1971.

I became a full partner in the firm in 1950. Dad was 72 years old and was becoming less active in handling the affairs of clients for whom he and I did the bulk of the work: The Telephone Company, General Electric Co., the Borden Co. and Western Union; so I needed help. Donald D. MacLean was then Assistant to the Dean of the University of Washington Law School (the Dean was Judson F. Falknor). On the enthusiastic recommendation of Jack Gose, Don was induced to come with us and did so in 1951. He became a partner some time in the late 1950’s.

That completes the list of partners down to the time when Mr. MacLean and I withdrew from the firm in 1962. In the meantime the firm acquired several new associates: Robert R. Beezer, Arthur S. Langlie, Fredric C. Tausend, Thomas R. Beierle and Bennett Feigenbaum. Of these Mr. Beezer, Mr. Tausend and Mr. Beierle are partners in the present firm, the name of which is Schweppe, Doolittle, Krug & Tausend. Mr. Langlie did not become a partner because when his father, the late former Governor Arthur B. Langlie retired from his position as Chairman of the Board of the McCall Corporation, he returned to Seattle, and he and his son opened their own law office. Similarly, Mr. Feigenbaum left the office in about 1963 to join Mr. MacLean and me in the Telephone Company.

My father died on July 16, 1962 at the age of 84. In his later years he came to the office every day, although he did very little work. He had emphysema, and moving about was very distressing to him. One day when he was feeling particularly tired I asked him why he didn’t stay home when he felt that way. He replied, “I won’t be feeling much better next day or the day after, and, if I start staying home, pretty soon I’ll stay home all the time. And I’ll be damned if I become a house invalid!” He used to tell our old dog, Annie, that he and she were the most useless people in the world.

Just by coincidence it was in the summer of 1962 that Walter Straley, then the President of Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company, asked me if I would come with the Company. After considerable thought and discussion, I finally did so, and on October 1, 1962 I withdrew from the firm. The next month Mr. MacLean did the same and joined me. We just moved across First Avenue into the Exchange Building and our relations with the firm are still very close — geographically, personally and professionally.

Our withdrawal required a reorganization of the firm. Since this is my own memoir of the firm, I shall terminate the historical part of it with 1962 and shall move along to other subjects.

I think that a little information about the geographical and physical layout of the office might be useful. Where the offices were in the early days, I do not know. I do know that just before the firm moved into the then new Colman Building in about 1909, the office was in the Bailey Block at Second Avenue and Cherry Street, the same building where Mr. Henry Broderick has held forth for so many years. Dad told me that the private offices had fireplaces in them — a homey touch.

The Colman Building office, I imagine, remained much the same from 1909 to 1932, but in 1932 it was extensively remodeled. The Colmans had money and considered it sound business and good social practice to take advantage of low prices in 1932 and to give employment to men in the building trades. Before the remodeling, though, the office was in the style of 1909.

Dad used to take me to the office on occasional week-ends, so I remember it fairly well. As one entered there was a golden-oak railing, with swinging doors in it, enclosing a sort of central bull pen where the stenographers worked at little desks. Right across from the entrance door was a big black safe about seven feet high with “Hughes, McMicken, Dovell & Ramsey” emblazoned on it in gold letters. That safe is still in the office, with the name unchanged, but now it’s in a separate room.

The private offices were around the outside of the bull pen. The library ran down one side of the building. Nearly all the men smoked cigars, and the place had a rare reek to it. There were spittoons too. There was a manual telephone switchboard manned by the receptionist. The service being manual, it was convenient to have her place most of the outgoing calls. Jack Gose said that it was quite a sight to see Dad come walking rapidly in the front door, fix the girl with a sharp blue gaze and say, “Get me Dix, Poe and Garvin!” Then he would go into his own room, walk around the desk, come back out, and ask “Got ‘em?”

Incidentally, the Times on March 29, 1959 published the list of “Seattle’s First 90 Phone Subscribers”, when the Seattle Exchange was established in 1883. (Seattle was pretty progressive, as this was only seven years after Mr. Bell invented the device.) In the list we find the firm of “Struve & Haines (attorneys) (Maurice MacMicken)” and the residence listings of “Col. J.C. Haines” and “Judge H.G. Struve”.

The firm’s law library was for years, and still is, one of the largest and most complete private law libraries in the country. Somehow there always was a partner who was a dedicated book man, and this succession insured that the library would be good. It is, for example, one of the few law libraries with a complete collection of the English reports. It has not only the law reports issued by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, which started publication after the Judicature Act of 1876 but it has the reports before that. And not in the form of the set known as “English Reprints”, but in the original reports.

It is handsomely housed, too, in a spacious series of rooms designed, as I recall, by Arthur Loveless in 1932. In the main room of the library are three long solid-oak tables, very simple and handsome in design. When they were installed my father issued an Imperial Ukase that anyone who put his feet up on one of those tables would have to pay for a complete refinishing of that table, whether he scratched it or not.

The remodeling in 1932 made the office much handsomer and more functional. One innovation, for example, was a proper waiting room, off to one side away from normal traffic and reasonably comfortably furnished. Most law offices don’t keep clients waiting very long, but a waiting room is useful. This one was unusual at the time because it was, and still is, paneled in walnut plywood. United States Plywood, a client of the firm, had developed these hardwood plywood panels that are virtually standard these days, and it was pleased to see the installation. The rest of the office woodwork was oak.

By some standards, however, the office was and is quite austere. There were, for example, no window drapes or curtains, just venetian blinds. The three offices, or rooms, along the west side of the building were finally air-conditioned while I was there, with individual units. Dad had one of those western-exposure rooms, and it would get extremely warm in the summer afternoons. It didn’t bother him much — he would sit there in a heavy wool suit, with a vest, and not seem to mind it, while the rest of us would be in shirt sleeves and gasping in the heat. Air conditioning was not needed elsewhere in the office because the rest of the rooms were on the north side and in sunny weather had usually the benefit of northerly breezes.

John Rupp served as president of the Seattle Bar Association (as it was then called) in 1956-57 and president of the Washington State Bar Association in 1966-67. After graduating in 1937 from the University of Washington School of Law, Mr. Rupp served as one of the first law clerks of the Washington Supreme Court. He then went on to a distinguished legal career, first joining his father’s firm, McMicken Rupp & Schweppe, which went through several name changes before dissolving as Schweppe Krug & Tausend in 1989, at which time Mr. Rupp became of counsel to Preston Thorgrimson Shidler Gates & Ellis, a position from which he never officially retired. Mr. Rupp was Vice President General Counsel of Pacific Northwest Bell from 1962-75, then returned to private practice. John Rupp passed away on August 21, 1996, at the age of 83. He never stopped writing.

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