IBA Honorary Life President, George Seward, mourned and celebrated by many
17 February 2012 – News of the demise of George Seward, Honorary Life President of the International Bar Association (IBA), and Name Partner of New York City law firm Seward & Kissel LLP, has been met with sadness and an outpouring of admiration for the man considered by many to have been the founder of the IBA as it stands today.
George Chester Seward was born on 4 August, 1910, in Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America (USA) and died on 15 February 2012, at his home in Scarsdale, New York, USA. He was aged 101.
IBA President, Akira Kawamura, on receiving the news in Japan, commented: ‘The demise of George Seward is not only a great loss for the International Bar Association, but a deep sorrow for me personally. Mr Kawamura reminisced: ‘In 2004, when I was appointed as the first chair of the IBA’s Bar Issues Commission, he told me, “Akira, the IBA was formed as the United Nations of bar associations, at the time of the founding of the UN, with the same principles and aims for global stability and peace. Now, in this leadership role you should revive that original philosophy.” Ever since then, he was my teacher on IBA matters. The IBA as the global voice of the legal profession was his vision.’
IBA Executive Director, Mark Ellis, said: ‘George Seward was responsible for moving the International Bar Association into the modern age. His legacy is the creation of an organisation that has become the preeminent international legal association in the world. The entire legal community owes George Seward its unwavering admiration and unending gratitude.’
Mr Seward’s involvement with the IBA spanned all of the decades from the IBA’s establishment in 1947, to the present year. In recognition of his contribution and dedication to the Association he was elected Honorary Life President in 1982 at the IBA’s main conference of that year in New Delhi, India. An occasion he described as the most interesting IBA event that he had attended. A series of lectures in his honour were initiated, with the first undertaken by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi in 1988.
Jim Hancock partner and member of the executive committee at Seward & Kissel told the IBA: ‘I think that every person that knew George understood that of all his many accomplishments he felt the greatest sense of satisfaction and fulfilment from his involvement with the IBA and very much appreciated the recognitions that the IBA gave him.’
Widely credited with ensuring the financial viability of the IBA, Mr Seward, in 1968, proposed that a section be created within the Association that would enable individual lawyers to become members. Despite initial opposition from the bar associations, the proposal was successful, and the Section on Business Law (SBL, now the Legal Practice Division) was created. The structural change transformed the IBA’s financial base. The SBL’s first official meeting was held in 1970 in Tokyo at the 13th IBA Biennial Conference. Until that point, membership of the IBA had been restricted to bar associations. Mr Seward became the SBL’s first president and remained in office for four years until 1974.
The University of Virginia is where Mr Seward graduated. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1933, and an LLB Phi Beta Kappa in 1936, Order of the Coif, and was a member of the University’s Raven Society. On 12 December 1936, he married Carroll Frances McKay. They had four children: two girls and two boys. Mr Seward’s wife, of 54 years, died in 1991. He is survived by their four children: Gordon Day Seward, Patricia McKay Seward (Mrs Dryden Grant Liddle), Dr James Pickett Seward and Deborah Carroll Seward (Mrs Roy Thomas Coleman), and five grandchildren.
In 1953, Mr Seward joined Meyer, Kidder, Matz & Kissell, which later became Seward & Kissell. He devoted himself principally to his law practice, continuing to go to the office in his centurial year. He was well known as a business lawyer and director of a number of companies.
Officers of the IBA’s Management Board commented:
‘George devoted a huge part of his long and active life to building the IBA. At its origin in 1947 and in the early years he shaped it and throughout his career watched carefully over its development. Even in his 90’s he travelled to our meetings all over the world to follow what was happening and offer advice. He was a tremendous inspiration to me when I first joined the IBA in 1979. I and many lawyers around the world owe him a vast debt of gratitude.’ – Michael Reynolds, IBA Vice-President; Allen & Overy LLP, Brussels.
‘George led a remarkable life and was an inspiration for us all. The IBA and each of us personally owe him a huge debt of gratitude.’ – David W Rivkin IBA Secretary-General; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, New York.
‘George inspired us with his vision and dedication to the IBA. He will be greatly missed.’ – Sylvia Khatcherian, Chair IBA Legal Practice Division; Morgan Stanley, New York.
‘George made a tremendous contribution to the legal profession as a whole, and was single mindedly dedicated to building the IBA. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.’ – Peter Maynard, IBA Chair Public and Professional Interest Division; Peter D Maynard Counsel & Attorneys, Bahamas.
George Seward always referred to the IBA as ‘my IBA’. Most would not argue with that sentiment. He is remembered with great fondness by all at the IBA who knew him and worked alongside him.