November 9, 2019

Stephen Porter: In Remembrance — February 22, 1939 – November 8, 2019

by Hal Gershowitz

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Stephen Porter, my dear friend of many years and my writing partner for much of that time, has succumbed to a long and debilitating illness. Steve was an ever-present partner in producing these essays long after he was no longer able to contribute to these pages. The question—What would Steve think? or What would Steve write? has always been part of the thought process that accompanied each of the 425 consecutive essays that have been penned since Steve and I began writing these weekly essays in 2009. In fact, embarking on this editorial project was Steve’s idea. I had penned an opinion piece regarding the first “Troubled Asset Relief Program” (TARP) in July of 2009 and passed it by Steve for critical review. He took an immediate interest in producing political commentary and floated the idea that we write a regular weekly column. Now, approximately one million words of commentary later, the on-line column we began writing a decade ago continues unabated, save for brief hiatuses when I’m completing a book (writing historical fiction is one of the great joys of my life).

During the early months and years that Steve was no longer able to participate in the writing, I made it a point to discuss whatever I planned to write with him.

“Any thoughts?” I would ask.

“Yeah, stop splitting your infinitives,” he would invariably reply. 

Washington, DC is still celebrating the Nationals hard-fought, world championship World Series victory. In a sense, the city was, and is, also celebrating Steve Porter. Bringing a Nats franchise back to Washington was a battle that Steve Porter fought almost singlehandedly. And while Steve’s group did not win the franchise, he made the case, lobbied Major League Baseball, and fought for a major league team in Washington…and won. He loved the Nationals and greatly admired the skill with which the Lerner family built the Nationals franchise, the stadium, and, most of all, he loved the remarkable team that his efforts helped bring to the nation’s capital.

Steve Porter was a truly great lawyer. He began practicing law over a half-century ago and was widely admired by his peers. He was, to many, the go-to lawyer when advice was sought for navigating large-scale, complex transactions, especially in the world of real estate, finance or corporate law. His advice was valued both for his wisdom and for the high ethical standard he maintained with every professional and personal undertaking. He was the proverbial class act.

The fog that is so characteristic of many age-related or trauma-caused infirmities was particularly cruel when it descended upon Steve, because there was no clearer, sharper or more astute thinker than Steve Porter when he was in his prime, and for many years thereafter.

I was privileged to spend a lot of time with Steve, especially after his retirement from the practice of law. We even took continuing education classes together at Cal State, San Bernardino in Palm Desert. Steve’s appetite for new knowledge was unappeasable. He loved the arts and was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts, by President George W. Bush—a responsibility he took very seriously.

Steve spoke beautifully and thoughtfully because he thought clearly and decisively. His advice was always sharp and crisp and on point. And while he was a serious man who dealt with serious matters for most of his working life, he reveled in the delight of great humor.  No one loved a good joke, or a well-told story, more than Steve Porter. He rewarded a good story or joke teller with a laugh that seemed to roar from every fiber of his being. Listening to him laugh was as much fun as the joke or story itself. Steve’s laugh was simply the ultimate reward for a joke well told.

There is an old Hebraic saying that those who are remembered never die. Many of us will always remember Steve because of his good counsel, his strong friendship and, perhaps most vividly, his hearty laugh.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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8 responses to “Stephen Porter: In Remembrance — February 22, 1939 – November 8, 2019”

  1. Aviva Snow says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a great man. Above all, he adored his family and was a loyal friend who had a heart of gold. He will truly be missed by us all of us.

  2. Jerry Kessler says:

    I have read and enjoyed and usually agreed with most of what you have written through the years. At some point I began to become curious at to who Stephen Porter was and gradually became somewhat aware of why his name was joined with yours in the weekly essays.
    Needless to say, your words were beyond touching, felt personal in every way. That they come from you, makes them just that more special.
    Well done Hal

  3. Ben Donenberg says:

    I had served with Stephen on the National Council for the Arts. We were sworn in by Justice Scalia. Before the swearing in, I asked Stephen to pick a fight with me so I could say I argued in front of a Supreme Court justice. The fight he chose was about baseball and Yogi Berra. Justice Scalia was a bit confused. Why were two members of the National Council on the Arts arguing about Yogi Berra and baseball? We abruptly stopped and I thanked Stephen and explained to Justice Scalia.

    We developed a nice rapport.

    After that, each time the Council would convene, Stephen met me with a new Yogi Berra story. I will share my favorite with your readers in honor of Stephen’s very dedicated service to the arts in the United States, in alignment with your recounting of his work to bring baseball back to Washington DC, and my respect for principled approach to the work we did together.

    Yogi Berra frequented an Italian restaurant in Jersey. He ordered a pizza and the waiter asked him if he wanted the pizza cut into eight pieces or sixteen. Yogi said he could never eat sixteen pieces.

    Thank you Stephen for some good debates about the arts, for allowing us to convene in your office under a cone of silence when necessary, for your unwavering commitment to excellent accessible art throughout the United States, your stories of Yogi Berra (“no one goes to that restaurant anymore, it’s too crowded), and your friendship.

  4. Spencer Porter says:

    Thank you for the words. I loved my poppy more than anyone in the world and there will never be another Steve Porter❤️

  5. Barbara Weisberg says:

    We were so saddened by the loss of Steve Porter. We enjoyed
    your essays every week. He will be missed. Please accept our
    heartfelt sympathy.
    Barbara and Shelly Weisberg

  6. Bret Lott says:

    I was blessed to have known Stephen in our years serving on the National Council on the Arts, and remember Ben and Stephen there in front of Justice Scalia when we are were all sworn in at the Supreme Court–a great day, and made even better by Stephen and Ben’s antics right there at the Supreme Court. I will miss him for his clear thinking, his willingness to speak his mind, his love of our country, and his superior wit. And yes, for the cone of silence when we needed it. Those were terrific times, and I am both saddened at our loss and brightened by the memory of him I carry with me to this day.

  7. Isabel says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. It’s difficult when you think one way and the man upstairs goes another way. Please extend my sympathies to the whole family.
    Sincerely, Isabel

  8. susan duman says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tribute to your dear friend and co- author. I did not know Steve, but I surely knew he had to be a man of wisdom and integrity otherwise you would not have partnered with him.
    I am smarter, therefore more content with myself, since reading your essays.
    With continue gratitude,

    Susan Duman

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