Obituary: Truman W. Eustis, III
Truman William Eustis, III, a former long-time New York Times attorney known for his wit and charm, his passion for cooking, his volunteerism and his liberal politics, as well as for legal prowess that led to innovations in copyright law, died Oct. 28. He was 86.
Family and friends paint a picture of a hard-working, church-going man who deftly and with humor maneuvered his way through his work and life, who specialized in dishing out sound advice, and who loved family, books, art, opera and food.
Known as “Bill,” Eustis was born in Birmingham, Mich., in 1929, the son of a General Motors engineer and the youngest of three boys. His father was a staunch Republican and his mother was a Democrat. Attorney Bill Saltsman, Eustis’ close friend of 40-plus years, said he “was the world’s quintessential liberal,” and a “gentle, not argumentative” man. Yet if someone didn’t meet expectations, said longtime friends Julie and Bill Ashby, he was quick to voice his opinion.
His delightful humor—doused with curmudgeon-style insight—his smarts, and his passion for travelling and eating with friends gained him and his wife, Martha, lifelong friendships with several couples. Eustis excelled academically at Cornell and kept busy with extracurriculars like student government and his fraternity Alpha Tau Omega.
John Lankenau was in student government with Eustis. He and his wife, Alison, would continue a lifelong friendship with Bill and Martha because the couples had so much fun together, the Lankenaus said. Martha said her husband, even in college, was an extraordinary cook, especially with Chinese dishes. A Cornell friend had told her, “Bill was the first foodie she had ever met.”
Before heading to Harvard Law School, Eustis served on the Korean War Headquarters Squadron, First Air Force. He was also a captain in the reserve. He went on to specialize in publishing and literary property for the Washington, D.C. and New York firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison.
A job with Look magazine sent Eustis into the world of corporate law—and marriage. There he met Martha Yerkes of Wilmington, Del., whom he married in 1963. After children Tim and Kelley came along in the 1960s, the family moved to Greenwich, where Eustis would always be active in town affairs. When Look folded, Eustis went to The New York Times Company and finished his career as senior attorney.
He was active in the copyright and trademark legal aspects of their publications, including The New York Times newspapers, and Golf Digest, Tennis, and Cruising World magazines, as well as having the title of secretary of Family Circle. He contributed substantially to the law of new uses of copyright in the storage and retrieval of data and the legal aspects of the then-extensive New York Times Cable operations.
It was just after he was hired by the Times that things got a bit too exciting for the copyright lawyer. When the Times published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Martha said, her husband didn’t come home for days. “A babysitter called one night afterwards in a panic,” said Eustis’ son, Tim, “asking what she should do about the car parked at the foot of the driveway. The police were called, and reported back that it was fine; it was just the FBI.”
One afternoon, Tim looked up from playing in his yard and saw FBI agents standing on the stone wall. He engaged one of them in a conversation, telling his mother later he’d just been playing with the men in the suits.
Tim Eustis says his father often gave advice with humor. When Tim, as a college student, told his father of his delight over the chicken paprikash he made while living in an off campus apartment, he soon found “The Joy of Cooking” in his mailbox with that recipe highlighted inside. In the book his father wrote: “Remember what the Amish say: ‘cookin’ lasts; kissin’ don’t.”
Eustis generously volunteered his legal skills in various realms. He was active in New York City Bar Association committees and as a practicing law lecturer, a Cardozo Moot Court judge, and a weekly TV panelist on Telecommunications. He was on the American Bar Association’s special Commission on Advertising, and when he finally retired from The Times Company in 1992, he went on to private practice in intellectual property in Greenwich, primarily as the Times’ associate counsel.
He loved art and opera, and his alma mater, Cornell. He was a docent for many years at the Bruce Museum. He served as counsel and director of the classical orchestra Philharmonica Virtuosi that played in the SUNY Theater and the Metropolitan Museum. He established a fund for contemporary American prints at Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and was a member of The Johnson Museum executive committee. He was on the Cornell Alumni Publications Committee, served as publisher of Cornell magazine, and was on the Cornell University Council.
Franklin Robinson, a friend of Eustis and a former director of the Johnson Museum, said Eustis was “truly good.” “For a man of affairs,” Robinson wrote, “a lawyer in the middle of the hurly-burly of this world, with all its complexities and moral ambiguities, to be good is altogether different—and so much more difficult… a man of character and integrity, he always took himself with a pinch of salt, a sense of humor, along with a generous dose of understanding of human frailty. He had a kindness and generosity of spirit, and a humor, that made every encounter with him a great pleasure, a true relief from the narrowness of so much human interaction in our daily lives.”
Eustis helped out the town of Greenwich, too, serving in town government and spending 11 years on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He was active on the Democratic Town Committee, and was a board member and 40-year volunteer for Abilis, a local organization that helps children with developmental disabilities.
He spent years on the vestry of Christ Church Greenwich. When Eustis’ physician called the family to give his condolences, he told them Eustis was a “true gentleman.” Eustis is survived by his wife, Martha; his daughter, Marion Kelley Eustis of Greenwich; his son Timothy and his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Henry and Fred, all of Great Barrington, Mass.; and nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to either: Abilis, 50 Glenville Street Greenwich, CT 06831, or Community Centers, Inc., 61 East Putnam Ave. Greenwich, CT 06830.
A service will be held Sat., Nov. 14, at Christ Church, Greenwich, at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at The Tomes Higgins House.