Attorney Allen Gary Palmer (aka “Blitz”), age 54, died July 17 of Parkinson’s disease, which ended his life but never brought him down. Indeed, Allen, who was one of the most interesting and memorable members of the Connecticut bar, turned on the disease in “man bites dog” fashion and taught us about diversity and inclusion for people with disabilities.
He came to Connecticut in 1977, graduated from Newtown High School, the University of Connecticut at Storrs, and the Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University. Allen, a person of many interests and passions, defied easy description. He was a gifted and highly successful family law lawyer. He was active in the American Bar Association and other bar-related organizations, and the Connecticut Bar Association. His friend of 25 years, Monte Frank, knowing of Allen’s great interest in diversity and inclusion, appointed him to the CBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee when Monte became bar president. Allen immediately dove into the work and prepared the template for section support of the CBA’s diversity initiative, enlisting the Family Law Section first and establishing the model others quickly followed.
His interests included poetry, which he started writing after a Haystack Mountain School of Crafts summer session in Deer Isle, Maine. Here is the closing stanza from his poem, “The Great Escape”:
Songbirds, their feathers and voice, provide a soft nest to envelope her tired mass plunging as far and as deep as the resistance of sheets, pillows and blankets offer respite from the rigor of life.
Listen to him recite it at http://seanharkness.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/The-Great-Escape.mp3.
And music. He loved music. And sports. Not just his favorite teams, but the Olympics, which he attended around the world. And his town. He was devoted to Newtown.
With the onset of Parkinson’s he brought to all of us a personal, thoughtful, and enlightening perspective about how one can live and practice with a disability. Allen spoke powerfully at the CBA Diversity and Inclusion Summit in October 2017, sharing the challenges he faced as a lawyer with a new disability. As he took to the lectern, with his tremors and occasionally halting speech, he challenged a profession that still places so many barriers in the path of the differently abled, and urged us to achieve meaningful inclusion for our colleagues with disabilities.
Even after retiring, Allen remained active with the organizing committee for the Connecticut Bar Association/Connecticut Bar Foundation symposium on diversity and inclusion for lawyers and law students with disabilities, taking place on Sept. 7. Alan’s talk at the symposium would have been his swan song to Connecticut, before he assumed the role of a self-described “gentleman farmer” in the South. Allen’s work was exemplary, his testimony powerful, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion unwavering to the end.
Thank you, Allen Gary Palmer. While the work continues, your voice and perspective will always be missed.