Larry Gill – Acceptance Speech
West Seattle High School
Class of 1954
Thank you Ted (Foss) for that very kind Introduction:
You know, I once had a very good friend who introduced me as a guy who couldn’t seem to keep a job — I seemed to lose one about every 5 years.
Seriously, I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have attended West Seattle High School. Please allow me share with you Why this is so!
My classroom teachers were all exceptional. They gave me a broad perspective of fields of learning that would become available to me at the University of Puget Sound, where I spent even more time exploring a career at this Liberal Arts College.
But, Most importantly let me tell you about my Mechanical drawing course taken at West Seattle High School. This is because it became one of the essential elements of my developing specialty, —–which was, — the designing and implementing of — Appellate Court improvement projects. We never had enough budget to do all we needed to do. This helped add to the quality of the administration of Justice.
After graduating from WSHS, the U of Puget Sound and Gonzaga law school, I spent 2 years at the Washington State Supreme Court. The first year as Chief Deputy in the Clerk’s Office under the tutelage of a brilliant Administrator determined to modernize all of the Court’s Operations. In actual fact, I was his gofer. I showed up every morning and he told me what to do. And — I did it. But I did learn from him how the Supreme Court operated and processed cases. The second year, I accepted a law clerk position with a Justice where I learned the needs and operations of a Justice’s chambers, while researching the cases for him and acting as an argument sounding board while he and I tested conflicting theories of a case. I then spent 2 years at a Commercial Bank where I learned to be a systems Analyist.
During that time, the Washington State Legislature created the new 3 Divisions of the Courts of Appeals. I applied and received one of the 3 Chief Clerk’s positions. On my first day I was taken to an Office Building under construction. Inside it was a complete concrete Shell, with no interior walls or wiring. I went to work using my Mechanical Drawing Class and large sheets of graph paper where I laid out to scale the complete Suite of Offices. Our first day for hearing cases met the start date set by the legislature for hearing cases. The other two Divisions were weeks behind us.
I continued to develop more efficient operations for the next 6 years, when the Justices sent me to an Appellate Court Clerks 5 day Conference in Louisville KY. There Appellate Clerks from all State and Federal Appellate Courts were meeting to share information in a large auditorium. There I gave a short talks. Our luncheon speaker came early and was listening. He invited me out for a cup of coffee and offered me a job. He turned out to be the Clerk of the United States Supreme Court.
Upon my arrival at the US Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger invited up to his Chambers and insisted on administering the Oath Of Office to me,—-it is the same Oath of Office that every Federal employee takes, usually from a secretary in the Personnel Office. He took a small bible out of his top drawer, saying that it had been used to swear in 4 presidents. He said he did this because he wanted to explain the high importance of a special project he wanted me to take. That project was to design and implement the first computerized case management system in any Appellate Court, State or Federal in the United States. With my faithful Mechanical Drawing Class and other knowledge and experience that I had acquired along the way, I completed this project in less than a year. And while I was at it, I completely redesigned the case management system, filing systems, and the jobs of each employee in the Clerk’s Office. The Chief Justice kept me busy for the next 6 years designing and implementing in nearly every office of the Court, all the while I carried my full load of Administrative duties.
By the way, this computer project was done in 1974, computers then, could do little more than count. There was no Micro Soft or Apple software available. We had to write our own operating system, and since we were the first to try this, there was nothing we could copy.
So I give much credit to West Seattle High School and my Mechanical Drawing Class for earning for both of us high praise from 4 Appellate Courts, Washington State Supreme Court, Washington State Court of Appeals Div II, the California Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, two of which are quoted in your Chinook.
There, Chief Justice Warren Burger is quoted as saying that my “contributions to the United States Supreme Court are of … “lasting benefit to the Court” for which he expressed his “deep appreciation for the excellent work …accomplished in the Clerk’s Office”. Earlier Chief Judge Vernon Pearson of the Washington State Court of Appeals , later elevated to Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court described by work in his court in one word, “invaluable”.
Again, I thank you for this High Honor.
West Seattle High School, Class of 1954