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Originally published October 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Obituary: Cameron DeVore, 76, First Amendment expert

Cameron DeVore, a nationally know expert on First Amendment law died Sunday at his Lopez Island home.

Seattle Times staff reporter

When P. Cameron DeVore sat down earlier this year to write his own obituary, he wrote, in jest, that he died "from a surfeit of pâté de fois gras ice cream smothered in huckleberries."

Still, it was a shock to his family when Mr. DeVore, 76, died at his Lopez Island vacation home Sunday night (Oct. 26), apparently of a heart attack. He was found collapsed at his computer, said his wife, Roberta. "He was communicating to the end," she said.

Mr. DeVore, of Seattle, was a nationally known expert on First Amendment law, and that was his focus for the four decades he worked for the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm in Seattle. He retired about seven years ago.

"He was a leader in the entire area of First Amendment protection," said Floyd Abrams, a New York attorney and another national expert on First Amendment law. "He was looked to by lawyers around the country as a guide on First Amendment issues and was a superb advocate before the courts. He was a paragon of legal ethics, someone who people turned to for advice. His death is a loss in a deeply personal as well as a professional sense."

Mr. DeVore was born in Great Falls, Mont., the son of a newspaperman. His father was editor of the Great Falls Tribune and of the Montana Farmer. Mr. DeVore would later tell friends he had printer's ink in his veins.

He grew up in Spokane and attended Yale University and Cambridge University and graduated from Harvard Law School. He moved to Seattle in 1961 and developed a First Amendment practice with Wright Simon Todd and Schmechel, a predecessor to Davis Wright Tremaine. One of his main clients was The Seattle Times.

He made a national name for himself in commercial law when he successfully argued that advertising, too, could be protected by the First Amendment.

He wrote a book with New York federal Judge Robert Sack on commercial law, "Advertising and Commercial Speech: A First Amendment Guide."

Sack said Mr. DeVore, a longtime friend, was best man at his wedding. The two met at a conference in 1973 and collaborated on writing about protections for commercial speech.

"When we started, there wasn't the basic notion that there was constitutional protection for advertising," said Sack. "But it provides very serious protection."

Mr. DeVore worked on a land-trust board on Lopez Island and did a biweekly radio show on the island, talking about the First Amendment.

"He felt it was incredibly important, and he loved the challenge for standing up for people's rights to say what needed to be said," his wife said.

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Added his son Chris, of Mercer Island: "He was one of the few people I knew who loved his work and retained joy for his work all his life. He felt the work he was doing was not only interesting but important."

He filed briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of First Amendment protection for tobacco advertising and casino advertising. He also wrote briefs opposing proposals to mandate free television time for federal candidates and was counsel to the Washington Legislature in a challenge to the constitutionality of a governor's line-item vetoes.

"Cam had a real generosity of spirit," said Bruce Johnson, a law-firm colleague. "He was extremely selfless, which was an unusual trait for a lawyer. He really cared about the First Amendment and the rights of the press, and he really wanted to defend those rights. He made it his career."

Alex MacLeod, former managing editor of The Times, was a longtime friend of Mr. DeVore's. He said he saw him two weeks ago, and the two talked about political life and books they had read.

"Cam was one of the real major figures in First Amendment law in the country," said MacLeod.

Mr. DeVore was the secretary of the board of directors of The Seattle Times Co. and put together key parts of a joint-operating agreement between The Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"He played a pivotal role in the transition from a newspaper that was struggling in the late 1970s into the newspaper it became in the 1980s and '90s," said MacLeod.

MacLeod also said Mr. DeVore was so devoted to fitness that in every city he visited he would research the toughest aerobics class and was always at that class. On Lopez Island, he went to yoga classes and every morning walked two miles from his home into town to buy a newspaper and coffee.

His Lopez vacation home was famous for the "DeVores' Fourth of July ice-cream social," MacLeod said, adding that Mr. DeVore's life revolved around his family. "Family was always what he wanted to talk about first," said MacLeod.

Mr. DeVore was past chairman of the American Bar Association's forum on communications law and was the corporate secretary of the Seattle Art Museum. He served on many boards, including those of Children's Hospital Foundation, Lakeside and Bush schools and the Seattle community colleges.

In his self-written obituary, Mr. DeVore noted his love of fly-fishing. He also loved to ski and particularly enjoyed Sun Valley, Idaho, where he and his wife honeymooned in 1962.

In addition to his wife and son Chris, Mr. DeVore is survived by daughter Jennifer Ross DeVore, of Los Angeles, son Andrew DeVore, of New York, and a sister, Emily Cowdery, of Caldwell, Idaho.

Funeral plans are pending. Mr. DeVore asked that contributions in his name be made to the Lopez Community Land Trust, Box 25, Lopez Island, WA 98261, or to Yale University.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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