W. Kirkland Taylor ’53


Westervelt Kirkland (“Kirk”) Taylor passed away on May 7, 2019 at Swedish Medical Hospital in Seattle, Washington. He was 85 years old. A Seattle resident since the mid-1970’s, Kirk came to Seattle from New York to pursue his career as a civil rights and criminal defense attorney. Admitted to practice in Washington in 1977, Kirk joined the Seattle Public Defender office and soon became a senior attorney supervising and mentoring up-and-coming public defense attorneys. Thereafter, Kirk went on to practice privately handling criminal and civil rights cases as well as assignments in intellectual property, real estate and business law matters. Kirk’s nearly 50 years in the legal field began with his engineering expertise and tenure as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office, followed by his years working at IBM in Fishkill, New York. The New York State Attica Correctional Prison riot of 1971 marked a pivotal professional turning point for Kirk who had made the decision to shift focus to civil rights and criminal defense. His activism and defense work for inmates caught up in the Attica uprising reflected his passion to combine a zest for the law and legal training with a desire to fight for the rights of individuals, including those downtrodden, marginalized or however challenged by the justice system. While sparring with adversaries, Kirk’s unassuming demeanor masked his talent for negotiating and unrelenting spirit to win. And, guided by a humanitarian ethos, his approachable style resonated with many clients who have shared accolades and heartfelt thanks for his work. Kirk earned his Juris Doctor from American University’s Washington College of Law. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, he held a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. Before college, Kirk graduated from The Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts. An outdoorsman, Kirk swapped leisure time spent on Martha’s Vineyard for a joyful life in the Pacific Northwest, often remarking on its beauty and sharing tales of his sailing, fishing, camping and hiking pursuits. He cherished his regular jogs along Lake Washington, workouts at the YMCA and quite a few other favorite pastimes, such as playing poker and chess with his inner circle of friends and colleagues. While his reading list was broad, Kirk was a devotee of the detective genre. And, his overseas travels to Southeast Asia, Brazil and Europe provided even more enchanting stories to tell. Forever an animal lover, Kirk always had a spirited canine companion at his side. Born in New York City on December 20, 1933, Kirk was raised in the St. Albans area of Queens, New York. His father, Westervelt A. Taylor, was a Queens County district attorney and MIT (class of 1927) and Fordham Law graduate, and mother, Zenaide Anderson Taylor, a teacher. A jazz music enthusiast, he recalled during his youth a home filled with music as Mom played piano and at times close St. Albans friends and neighbors, some of whom revered as jazz legends, would visit and join in. In a ceremony officiated by his uncle, the Reverend Jesse F. Anderson, Sr. of Philadelphia, Kirk married Dorothy H. Anderson in the spring of 1959 and is survived and will be missed greatly by their children Kevin, Karen and Todd Taylor. In 2015, Kirk married again and is survived by his wife of 4 years, Patricia Espey. Grandchildren, along with the rest of his family and friends, will remember him fondly as well.

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