Douglas R. Drysdale

2011-08-11T00:00:00Z Douglas R. Drysdale The Billings Gazette
August 11, 2011 12:00 am

BOZEMAN — Douglas R. Drysdale died at his home, surrounded by family, on Aug. 9, 2011.

He was born Nov. 2, 1922, in Washington, D.C., the youngest of four brothers, to Rebecca and James Drysdale. His father was a patent attorney and his mother, a school teacher. He spent his childhood years squirrel hunting and working as a paperboy, grocery store box boy and gas station attendant, as well as a District Water Department crew member.

On May 25, 1942, he enlisted in the USAF Cadets. He was stationed in England and flew 35 missions, as a pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress, and member of the "Bloody Hundredth". Having completed his tour, instead of coming home, he elected to fly the P-51 Mustang, thus becoming a member of a small group of airmen known as "Double Duty Men." On his second mission, his P-51 was shot down over the bridge at Neimegin in The Netherlands, which at that time was under German occupation. He bailed out of his burning fighter plane, and fell into the arms of a Dutch Resistance group. With their help, he evaded capture.

Returning to the U.S., he headed to Montana and enrolled at MSU, where he met and married Martha Story, his wife of 64 years. Douglas graduated from UM School of Law and they made their home in Bozeman where he practiced law for 32 years.

From 1955, until he retired in 1984, he had a distinguished and active legal career, including Gallatin County attorney, Board of Trustees for the Montana State Bar Association, and President of the State Bar in 1971. He was instrumental in the organization of Montana Legal Services (legal assistance for low income persons) and the Commission on Practice (Discipline of Attorneys). He was appointed by the Commission on Practice on several occasions to investigate colleagues accused of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Doug helped promote the requirement that all attorneys licensed to practice in the State of Montana must be members of the State Bar Association thus subject to its rules and regulations. Douglas was active in the American Bar Association and the Jack Rabbit Bar Association, which represented several Western states.

In addition to his unselfish service to attorneys and state organization, he practiced law in Bozeman, initially with Hal Bollinger and then started his own firm which still bears his name, Drysdale, McLean and Willett. Douglas brought in Jim McLean as a partner in 1969, and they developed a special relationship and trust between each other and their families, which still exists.

Douglas was an attorney extraordinaire. Jim was working in Helena for Judge Lester Loble in 1967, when Doug offered him a job. Judge Loble stated, "Yes, Mr. Drysdale would be a fine attorney to go into practice with. He is the best young trial attorney in Montana." Douglas was at his best in trial work. Mr. Drysdale's admonition in his closing argument that "the tail goes with the hide" caused many a jury to scratch their heads and untangle conflicting evidence, and most of the time find in Mr. Drysdale's client's favor. Although Mr. McLean took on much of Mr. Drysdale's day-to-day clients' work in later years, all of his old clients said, "That's fine, but if I get into real trouble, I want Doug to represent me."

Even though Douglas was a prestigious and sought-after attorney, he took on many clients who had limited means to pay for his services at little or no charge; he never charged a fee for adoptions. He was appointed by the Judge as pro bono counsel in the infamous cannibal case in Park County. Additionally, he taught Military Justice in the USAF ROTC program at MSU.

Mr. Drysdale's integrity, trust, professionalism, study of the law and loyalty to a client were seldom matched by other attorneys. His quick understanding and analysis of the facts and law of a case or a business deal, along with his keen ability to read the opposite side's weaknesses and strengths, and counsel to his client made him a successful negotiator. His counsel was sought after by other attorneys and clients long after he retired. He was a mentor and counselor to many and we will all miss his sage advice and quick wit.

After his retirement in 1983, Doug and Martha traveled extensively by Space A with USAF. They also worked with a passion on their Wikiup - their summer home. He always said that although it didn't pay much, he was the ‘horticultural consultant' for the Old Saloon in Emigrant. Enjoying the best of both worlds, they had many friends in Paradise and Gallatin Valleys. It was a good life with children, dogs, fast cars, good food, cigars and fine wine! Providing and caring for his wife, children and generations to come was his aim. Doug's favorite scripture was Timothy 5:23: "No longer drink only water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."

Douglas was preceded in death by his parents and his three brothers, Rev. Murray Drysdale, Lt. William Drysdale, and Alexander Drysdale.

Survivors include his wife, Martha and his five children, Bill (Tammy) Drysdale, Dulce (Tony) Rolfes, Amanda Drysdale, Becky (James) Boyle, and Sarah (TJ) Eyre. He had nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, Erin (Lance) Paulaskis, children, Molly Jean, Zoe, and Emma; Geoff (Lindsey) Drysdale, son, Bronson Drysdale; Katie (Dan) Drysdale; Douglas J. Drysdale; April Todd, children, Isaiah and Laila; Isaac Todd; Ivy Sehulster; Mick Freeland; Sam Freeland; and Rahki Eyer. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Service will be celebrated on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at 11 a.m. at Hope Lutheran Church off of South 19th Ave. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 W. Graf, Bozeman, MT 59718.

Condolences and memories may be shared during a luncheon following the service and at

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