Over the years, WW (now owned by the paper’s editor and publisher) has benefited from the great generosity of many Portlanders and has been blessed by lots of luck. No outsider did more for us than Dennis Lindsay, a local lawyer who died Oct. 2 of complications from a stroke. In addition to that initial investment, Lindsay’s firm served as general counsel for our business from 1974 until the early ’80s, and he was the first chair of the paper’s board of directors.
Back in those early days, I had the pleasure of observing Dennis (everyone called him by his first name) advising the paper on a couple of threatened libel actions. He was a short man with striking black hair and seemed always to have an unlit cigar in his hand or mouth. You could tell he was full of energy and his mind was racing, but he could sit very still, and what ultimately emerged from his mouth was calm, wise, profane—and delivered in the most soothing gravelly voice I’ve ever heard. “You don’t want those sons of bitches suing you,” he’d start off, and then suggest a thoroughly practical course of action.
WW was just a tiny piece of Dennis Lindsay’s career. He facilitated the merger of the Port of Portland with the Dock Commission. He hired great lawyers for Lindsay, Hart, Neil&Weigler, occasionally ignoring spotty law-school transcripts. Of Oregon’s 17 sitting appellate judges, five cut their teeth under Dennis’ tutelage. He performed all manner of public service and supported a variety of important causes—all without ever drawing much attention to himself.
I got a hint of what motivated Dennis some years back, when I asked him for a non-tax-deductible contribution to help support Brent Walth’s 1995 biography of former Gov. Tom McCall. Dennis calmly bent forward at his desk, opened the drawer, pulled out a checkbook and asked, “How much?” The check for $2,000 or $3,000 was drafted and signed, and I thanked him, noting how much trouble I’d had raising money from other, more likely, donors.
“There are a lot of cheap bastards in our profession,” Dennis replied with a twinkle in his eye. “Thank you for helping me feel, for a moment at least, that I’m not one of them.”