Seattle – Global law firm K&L Gates LLP today joins legal and political communities across the United States in mourning the death of Thomas Slade Gorton III, former Republican U.S. Senator and Attorney General for Washington State and a longtime lawyer with K&L Gates. Gorton passed away today at the age of 92.
“Slade Gorton personified public service, extraordinary ability, professional excellence, and individual grace and integrity,” said K&L Gates’ Global Managing Partner Jim Segerdahl. “As a law firm, we are proud of our association with him and his amazing range of accomplishments, and we mourn the passing of an exceptional individual and colleague.”
Gorton’s remarkable career in public service began with his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 1945 and as a member of the Air Force reserves until 1980, retiring as a colonel. In 1958, he was elected to the state legislature of Washington, where he spent the next decade moving up the ranks to become House majority leader. Gorton was elected Attorney General of Washington in 1968 and served in that capacity for 12 years, until he was elected to the United States Senate in 1980.
During his three terms as Washington State Attorney General, Gorton argued 14 cases before the United States Supreme Court, including landmark cases on logging, fishing, consumer protection, and vehicle pollution. He famously led a suit against Major League Baseball’s American League to bring baseball back to Seattle via the Mariners in 1977. Later, in the 1990s, he twice partnered with various entities on ownership and construction deals to keep the team in Seattle.
Pallavi Mehta Wahi, K&L Gates’ co-managing partner, United States, and managing partner of the firm’s Seattle office, stated: “Slade was a powerhouse legal and policy leader in the U.S. His legacy will be felt across many current and future generations. His contributions and presence across the firm will be greatly missed.”
In the Senate, Gorton served on key committees, including Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Energy and Natural Resources. He was the chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the Commerce Subcommittees on Merchant Marine, Consumer Affairs, and Aviation, and was also a member of the Republican party leadership, serving as counsel to the majority leader from 1996–2000.
After retiring from the Senate in 2001, Gorton joined the Seattle and Washington, D.C., offices of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP, one of the firms that combined to create K&L Gates in 2007, where he focused on public policy and law relating to maritime and aviation issues, congressional investigations, and appropriations, among many others.
K&L Gates partner and founding member of the public policy and law practice Emanuel (Manny) L. Rouvelas, commented: “For almost twenty years, Slade’s extraordinarily keen intellect, integrity, energy, commitment to public service, and experience in all parts of the public policy process have been hugely important to our firm and clients. We all feel grateful to have worked with him. We are saddened by his passing, but consoled that his enduring legacy includes generations of lawyers in the firm that he led, trained, and mentored.”
The highly-regarded Gorton was appointed to several local, state, and federal commissions and councils throughout the decades, including the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission); the president’s Consumer Advisory Council; the Washington State Redistricting Commission; the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission; the Washington State Law & Justice Commission; the British Petroleum Refineries Independent Safety Review Panel; and the University of Virginia’s National War Powers Commission.
To honor Gorton’s political legacy, the National Bureau of Asian Research founded the Slade Gorton International Policy Center, focused on the areas of policy research, fellowship and internship programs, and the Gorton History Program (archives).
In 1980, Gorton received the Wyman Award, the highest honor accorded by the National Association of Attorneys General, for taking the unusual step of appearing personally to argue the state’s positions before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also recognized by the American Jewish Congress with the Community Leadership Award in 2006; the Discovery Institute’s Statesmanship Award in 2004; as a ‘Top Lobbyist’ by The Hill newspaper for several years between 2008–2012; and as the Best of Puget Sound for his contributions to the 9/11 Commission in 2004.
He is survived by his siblings: sister Mary Jane and brothers Michael and U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton; three children; and seven grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Sally, who passed away in 2013.