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Originally published March 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 5, 2007 at 7:01 PM

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Obituary

Josef "Joe" Diamond, parking lot magnate, dies at 99

A maverick lawyer who went on to create a parking-lot empire, Josef "Joe" Diamond was an unflinching voice in a town more accustomed to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A maverick lawyer who went on to create a parking-lot empire, Josef "Joe" Diamond was an unflinching voice in a town more accustomed to conciliatory tones.

Following an ethic of hard work and demanding it of others, Mr. Diamond made his share of enemies. But the loyalty he engendered — particularly from those who worked for him — kept him going, and working, until nearly the end.

Mr. Diamond died Saturday at his home, three days shy of what would have been his 100th birthday.

In an interview last year, Mr. Diamond, laid up after a fall, spoke of his intention to return to work and to live to be 100.

It's one of the few times he didn't get his way.

Fair or not, Mr. Diamond's name forever will be synonymous with the boots and barrels that his attendants attached to cars that parked illegally — or, in the judgment of some irate vehicle owners, not so illegally — in Diamond Parking lots throughout the Seattle area.

A shrewd capitalist with business practices that yielded little compromise, Mr. Diamond was not the warmest and fuzziest guy in town. But like his last name that suggests something genuine and brilliant, Mr. Diamond was both.

"I have found him daring, at times hardheaded and occasionally blind to reality yet always patient and determined not to hurt feelings — quite a feat for a stubborn soul with a delightful sense of humor," his wife, Muriel Bach Diamond, said recently.

He practiced law concurrently with running the Diamond Parking empire. He helped build the company through real-estate transactions that transformed worthless land into revenue-generating property.

Diamond Parking, which remains in the family, now consists of more than 1,000 lots and garages in nine western states. It is the largest and oldest family-owned parking operation in the world, the family says.

State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers, who once worked for Mr. Diamond's law firm, called him "the most unforgettable character I have ever met" in a profile he wrote for the March 2002 King County Bar Association's Bar Bulletin.

"Sure, he scared me at first. Why not? He was a big man with an imposing presence and booming voice. But, I quickly learned that he was not only one of the state's most dynamic, creative and resourceful lawyers, but he was also a thoughtful caring man. He never raised his voice and he never swore."

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The son of a Russian tailor who worked in a village near Kiev, he was born in Los Angeles — the first of his family born in the U.S. The family of seven moved from Los Angeles to Seattle when he was only two.

A member of the first graduating class of Garfield High School in 1924, his childhood friends included future King County Prosecutor Charles O. Carroll and future Gov. Albert Rosellini."

In his most famous case as a lawyer, Mr. Diamond argued a reverse discrimination claim before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the UW Law School policy for accepting minority applicants over white applicants with higher GPAs.

His client, Marco DeFunis, earned his law degree because of the case, but Diamond was unable to convert the case into a class action. Still, it laid the foundation for the Bakke case out of California that set precedent on reverse discrimination cases.

The family lists survivors as wife Muriel; son Joel and daughter-in-law Julie; two grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by Violett Diamond, his first wife of 47 years, and Ann Dulien, his second wife.

A memorial service for the immediate family is planned.

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