A Touch of Class -- The Passing of a Legend

John J. Hopkins Aug. 25, 2007, 7:35am

Today's movie metaphor is used for the title only, as was the case once in the past, now some two years ago. The movie itself was a light-hearted comedy from 1973, but the title bespeaks an affirmation of style, of grace, of the mannerly yet manly pursuit of a lifetime of service to others.

In short, it capsulizes the life of a counselor to both the famous and the forgotten, one whom it was my pleasure to know and high honor with which to share a profession.

Randall Robertson passed away at age 87 on the 16th of August 2007, the final chapter of a life well and truly lived. At the service on Monday, a ceremony not entitled a funeral but a "Celebration of Life," his friends and family gave witness to the mark left on the landscapes -- legal, civic and political -- by the man always and simply referred to as "Randall."

The litany of professional accomplishments is the stuff of legal legend: After graduating from St. Louis University Law School (the first of three generations to do so), he was founding member of Lueders, Robertson and Konzen; Illinois Special Assistant Attorney General for over 20 years; Godfather to the Tri-City Port Authority, serving as General Counsel for over 34 years, the groundbreaking work with the merger of Granite City and Nameoki Village, not to mention serving as Attorney for the Granite City Park District for 46 years.

Far and away, however, his reputation as the one of the premier attorneys in the field of litigation before the Illinois Commerce Commission was his true mark of distinction. Working with colleagues from Chicago to Carbondale, throughout over 60 years of practice, he carved out this niche in the Law, establishing himself as one of a handful of true experts in the field.

But throughout, he remained in every good sense of the word, a true old school Gentleman. Distinguished, dapper and debonair, it is said that Randall was the only resident of Granite City who cut the grass wearing a shirt and tie.

Honors came his way: Chamber Citizen of the Year; the dedication of "Randall Robertson" park in his home town; president of the Bar Association, all accepted with modest reluctance. The Judicial Holy Grail sought by many a lawyer -- a life time appointment to the Federal Court -- was offered on the proverbial silver platter, but humbly declined, as the price of isolation from his fellow lawyers perceived to be too high. He was, like his long time friend the late Judge Bill Beatty, very comfortable in his own skin, very much at ease being Randall.

My own relationship with Randall was forged early on, as a clerk in the offices of William Schooley, I was one of the young lawyers who made the trip over to Lueders, Robertson and Konzen office on Delmar to use the library of Federal Court cases, graciously opened to all the members of the Bar, even Opposing Counsel.

It is difficult to imagine such a selfless gesture now. Later on, our paths would regularly cross, not as adversaries, but as "Brothers in Law," the title given to the husbands of the members of P.E.O., a secret subversive society to which both our wives belonged.

On such occasions, I often would spend time listening to stories of Madison County legal times past, featuring a young George Moran, John Gitchoff, the aforementioned Bill Beatty, John Duffner, Fred Schuman and the ever popular Morris Chapman. I absolutely loved his stories, as they rarely had a moral, but always had a point. Many times I asked him to be the lead person in the Oral History Project for the Bar Association, to go on camera and re-tell the stories for posterity, to preserve the history before it slips away.

But always, he declined, telling me in self-effacing modesty, "John, you can find someone else better than me." Who, indeed, who?

The Rev. Lewis Trotter said at the service on Monday that with the death of Randall Robertson, a "Mighty oak has fallen."

Hyperbole to be sure, but in this case, accurate. A true giant of the Law has left us, one who by his career, like the rising tide lifting all the boats in harbor, made all in the profession just a little bit better. But his legacy lives on. To his family, wife Betty, sons Eric, Bill and Douglas, daughters Colleen, Robyn, Laura and Linda, along with daughter-in-law Marie and all 12 grandchildren, our most heart felt condolences.

To Leo Konzen, his partner of five decades, as the surviving member of the perfect blend of business and friendship, our thanks for being part of a sterling example, even if we in our imperfections failed to imitate.

True to his heritage, on behalf of Randall all who came to pay respects were given the words of the old Irish blessing, "May the road rise with you, May the wind always be at your back, May the sun shine upon your face, And the rain fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again, May God keep you in the hollow of His hand."

I do not know exactly where the hollow of God's hand lies, but if Randall made the reservations, I suspect that cocktail hour is still 5 p.m., and that the accommodations are first class.

Rest in peace, my friend.

More News