George Chester Seward, the Honorary Life President of the International Bar Association (London) and name partner of Seward & Kissel LLP, a New York City based law firm, died on February 15, 2012, at his home in Scarsdale, New York. He was 101.
Mr. Seward was born August 4, 1910 in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents were Frank G. Seward and Ada L. Rugh Seward. He had one brother, Leslie Rugh Seward, who died at age eight in a swimming accident.
He devoted himself principally to his law practice and was well known as a business lawyer and director of a number of companies. He became a partner of Seward & Kissel in 1953 and under his leadership the Firm became a well-known business law firm, recognized world-wide for its work with clients in the private investment/hedge fund, banking and transportation (shipping) industries. Mr. Seward was a partner at Seward & Kissel until December 1983 and had been Senior Counsel to the Firm since that date, maintaining his strong work ethic by working at the Firm three or four days a week through the end of 2011. Mr. Seward was an active member of the American Bar Association as chairman of a committee that developed a model corporation act to govern the creation and operation of business corporations, which is used in whole or part by more than half of the American States. Mr. Seward was Chairman of the ABA’s Section on Business Law and a member for fourteen years of its governing body, the House of Delegates. In addition, he became involved on behalf of the ABA in the International Bar Association in the early 1960s when the IBA was a federation of Bar Associations. Mr. Seward played a key role in developing the IBA into a world organization of business lawyers as well as a world organization of bar associations. Mr. Seward, as the organizing chairman of the individual member side of the IBA, became its Honorary President-Founder and the IBA made him its Honorary Life President. Three heads of state – Rajiv Gandhi of India, Dr. Mario Soares of Portugal, and Hon. Arpad Goncz of Hungary – have, on invitation from the IBA, given “George Seward” lectures.
Among the other organizations in which Mr. Seward had been involved as an officer or trustee are University of Virginia Arts & Sciences Council (president), Phi Beta Kappa Associates, a fundraising arm of the United Chapters (president), Edwin Gould Foundation for Children (trustee), New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (trustee), and the American Bar Foundation Special Committee on Model Corporation Acts (chairman).
Mr. Seward was the author of Basic Corporate Practice and co-author of Model Business Corporation Act Annotated. In addition, he authored a book, Seward and Related Families, about his branch of the Seward family that mentions his unusual elementary education. He transferred frequently among schools in Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois and Indiana as required by his father’s business activity. He said he failed a term in an early grade, possibly due in part to the transferring, but ultimately graduated from Louisville (Kentucky) Male High School, cum laude, and the University of Virginia, where he received a B.A. degree and an LL.B. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, Order of the Coif and was a member of the University’s Raven Society.
Mr. Seward was distantly related to William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State. They share the Secretary’s great-grandfather as a common direct ancestor.
Two portraits of Mr. Seward are available to the public: one by Carlos Pérez-Herce of Madrid, Spain (1994) is in the entrance room of the offices of the International Bar Association, 10 St. Bride Street, London; and one by Everett Raymond Kinstler of New York City (2000) is displayed in the main conference room of Seward & Kissel LLP, One Battery Park Plaza, New York City.
Mr. Seward’s wife of 54 years, Carroll Frances McKay Seward of Suffolk, Virginia, died in 1991. He is survived by four children: Gordon Day Seward, Patricia McKay Seward (Mrs. Dryden Grant Liddle), Dr. James Pickett Seward and Deborah Carroll Seward (Mrs. Roy Thomas Coleman), five grandchildren: Andrew Gordon Seward, Dryden Jonathan Liddle, Ashley Shiona Liddle (Mrs. Andrew James Cole), Eric Thomas Coleman and Paige Carroll Coleman, and seven great grandchildren, Nichole (“Nikki”) Elizabeth Seward, Thomas (“TJ”) Joseph Seward, Connor Stephen Seward, Thea Patricia Emily Cole, Sofie Shiona Isobel Cole, Beatrice Jennifer McKay Cole and Alastair William Dryden Liddle.
Mr. Seward was a member of a number of social clubs, including: New York Yacht Club, The Knickerbocker Club and The Down Town Association in New York City; Scarsdale Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY; Gardiner’s Bay Golf Club and Shelter Island Yacht Club in Shelter Island, NY; Greencroft of Charlottesville, VA; Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C.; University Club of Chicago, IL; and the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, CA.
Family members and the partners of Seward & Kissel are planning a celebration of his life to be held this spring at the Down Town Association.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests a gift to either the donor’s own charity or to the University of Virginia to be added to the George and Carroll Seward fund for scholarships, University of Virginia Development Office, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400220, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4220.