Law School Mourns the Passing of David Ryrie Brink (’47)

July 27, 2017

David Ryrie Brink (’47), a former president of the American Bar Association and a nationally recognized expert in trusts, estates, and probate law, passed away on July 20. He was 97.

Brink was born in Minneapolis in 1919 to Newbery Award-winning author Carol Ryrie Brink (Caddie Woodlawn) and Raymond W. Brink, a University mathematics professor and author. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University in 1940 and enrolled at the Law School, but interrupted his legal education to serve as a Navy cryptographer in World War II. Returning in 1946 to finish his J.D., he served as editor of the Minnesota Law Review.

He joined the Minneapolis firm that would later become Dorsey & Whitney in 1947 and worked in trusts and estates under Harry Blackmun, the future U.S. Supreme Court justice. In 1953, Brink became a partner at Dorsey, succeeding Blackmun as the head of its trusts and estates department. As he built his reputation in probate law, Brink was also taking on leadership roles in the profession. He served as president of the Hennepin County Bar Association (1967-68), Minnesota State Bar Association (1978-79), and the ABA (1981-82), after years of work on the ABA Board of Governors and many of its sections and committees. Brink remained a vigorous and successful practitioner during this period as well, becoming a fellow and later a regent of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American College of Tax Counsel. He was also a prolific writer and a frequent speaker on numerous legal topics.

“David Brink was a distinguished graduate of the Law School who became a national leader in his field of the law and rose to lead the legal profession as president of the American Bar Association,” said Professor Bob Stein (’61), who was the ABA’s executive director and chief operating officer for many years. “As ABA president, David defended the Legal Services Corporation and promoted pro bono delivery of legal services.” During his time at the ABA, Brink also worked to protect an independent federal judiciary from Congressional efforts to strip its jurisdiction, advocated for alternative dispute resolution, and promoted the rule of law throughout the world.

Throughout his long career, Brink found time to pursue painting and sculpture. Following his retirement in 1989, he became active in the ABA Standing Committee on Substance Abuse and a tireless advocate for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, an organization in which he mentored many other lawyers dealing with substance abuse problems. In his 80s, Brink became a serious poet, and in 2016, at the age of 96, he made his literary debut, publishing a collection entitled Beyond the Delta.

Brink is survived by his sister, four children, and eight grandchildren. A Celebration of Life reception will be held Saturday, Aug. 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 6Smith Restaurant in Wayzata, Minn. RSVP to David O. Brink at dbrink@ucsd.edu.

David Ryrie Brink (’47)
David Ryrie Brink (’47)

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