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Eugene A. Wright, the eldest member of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, died earlier this week in a Seattle hospital. He was 89. Wright was known for his concise opinions, his advocacy of a circuit split and his love of the University of Washington Huskies football team. He died Tuesday from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. “He was a fine judge, a wonderful mentor to those who knew him,” said 9th Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder. Wright was appointed to the bench by President Nixon in 1969. He had worked for several years with his father at their Seattle law firm before becoming a Superior Court judge, a post he held for 12 years. Wright took senior status in 1983. During his career on the federal bench, he became known as an advocate of First Amendment rights, fitting for a judge with an undergraduate degree in journalism. Wright was born in and spent his entire life in Seattle. He had largely retired in recent years. His last published opinion was written in 1998. “We used to marvel at his ability to take complicated subjects and reduce them to simple, understandable legal opinions,” said 9th Circuit Judge Richard Tallman, whose chambers are in Seattle. Schroeder said he was something of a mentor to younger judges. “I think he thought of himself as a teacher, too,” she said. In fact, he did lecture for a time at the University of Washington’s School of Law and School of Communications. He was also a big fan of its football team, often making friendly wagers with others on the court. He served during World War II, and was in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 30 years, rising to the rank of colonel. Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Esther Ladley Wright; sister, Florence Wright Russell, of Seattle; son, Gerald Allen Wright, of Portola Valley, Calif.; daughter Meredith Wright Morton of Olympia; a grandson and a great-granddaughter.

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