browning_mareanBrowning Endicott Marean III, 71, passed away last night in a hospital in his adopted hometown of San Diego. He died of complications attendant to a six month course of aggressive treatment for esophageal cancer.  Browning was not ready to go, and he fought his fate with the grace, intelligence, steadiness and humor that made us love him.  Browning Marean was the world’s best known and most admired ambassador for e-discovery, the peripatetic mayor of our global village.  No one traveled further, spoke more or put a better face on the American approach to the exchange of information in litigation than Browning.  Lawyers around the world think Americans mad when it comes to civil discovery; but when they heard Browning speak, when they heard that mellifluous radio announcer voice, they thought better of us.  And that was Browning in a nutshell: a wise, avuncular presence who just made you feel that everything would be all right. He touched my life for good, and I will miss him with all my heart.  In that, I am far from alone.

Browning practiced law with DLA Piper, though his affections lay with Gray Cary Ames & Frye, the San Diego firm he joined in 1969 and saw gobbled up by DLA in 2005. DLA Piper is huge, and Browning was so proud that his firm “even has an office in Tbilisi!”  (It’s in Georgia–the Soviet one.  I had to look it up.)  To its great credit, DLA Piper allowed Browning to play to his strengths.  Browning crisscrossed the globe gently nudging lawyers toward the future.  He served as his firm’s ethics counsel and shepherded them through tough times.  I did not know Browning when he had first chair litigation duties; but, he spoke of having fought the “Uranium Wars,” which I took to mean that he had either engaged in years of litigation over Uranium ore or that Earth had secretly gone to war with Uranus and Browning had fought and won for our side.  Either way, he earned his stripes.

A patrician Yankee turned Californian via a Stanford education, Browning frequently reminded me that he, too, was licensed to practice law in Texas.  I was as proud of his Texas connection as he was.  We did a long-running roadshow together in the early years of e-discovery, where we blathered, dallied and dined in every major city and some not so major.  One was little Rapid City, South Dakota, where Browning was warmly attentive to my young son, Madison. I remember them discussing a book that particularly captured Browning’s imagination: Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. That’s the one where Kurzweil posits that technology will soon let us live forever.  Would that it had happened in time for Browning.  He would have really liked that.

When Browning discovered some new tool or app, he couldn’t wait to share it. Browning’s enthusiasm for technology (and books and people and life) was infectious.  He inspired multitudes to push past their trepidation and give something a try.   I doubt he knew how many credit him with the signal leaps they took in their lives.

As Browning underwent treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston these last months, I visited often and got to spend some cherished time with him. We spoke of many things besides e-discovery: his carefree sojourn in Europe as a young student, his peaceful service in Vietnam as a naval officer, his family and his road trips taken to combat the boredom of waiting for the medical nightmare to be over. Browning longed to be back to work and, though gaunt as Gollum with barely strength to stand, he never doubted he would return to the speaking circuit.   Browning’s bright eyes were always on that great, big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.  Browning was ever a beacon of optimism, enlightening all in his kindly, gentle, humorous way.

Browning’s dad was also a naval officer and graduate of St. Paul’s Prep School. When the elder Browning died in 1975, the school obituary said, “A man of great dignity and humility, he was warmly respected by associates in all his endeavors.” Like father, like son.

Browning is survived by his wife Pat, daughter Kelly Clemeshaw, son Mark and two grandchildren, to whom I send earnest sympathies and condolences.  He is also survived by several close friends, countless admiring colleagues and thousands and thousands of lawyers and others who are better for having heeded him.

Browning always left early to get what he called his “beauty sleep.”  It worked.  He was a beautiful person.  He’s left early once more and forever.  Rest in peace, ‘Uncle’ Browning.  We’ll see you in the singularity.

Some of Chris Dale’s splendid photos of Browning.  For a post that captures Browning brilliantly, please read Chris Dale’s tribute here.  Also, Browning’s longtime partner in crime, Tom O’Connor, has written a touching and funny remembrance. published here.  The comments below and those appended to the other tributes are but a small measure of the outpouring of admiration and loss so many feel at Browning’s death.

Browning’s family will convene a celebration of his life on Saturday, September 20 at 2:00 pm.  Location: Westminster Presbyterian Church of Escondido. 1500 S. Juniper St., Escondido, CA 92025.

 

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