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Archive for Thursday, August 15, 2002

Longtime local attorney dies at 72

August 15, 2002

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Eugene C. Riling, a Lawrence attorney whose family's history of practicing law here dates to the turn of the 19th century, died Tuesday at his home. He was 72.

Friends said Riling, a former senior partner in what was then known as Riling, Burkhead, Fairchild & Nitcher, had battled leukemia for many years but never really retired from a profession from which he derived great satisfaction.

"His father virtually died in the office. That was part of their heritage," said Douglas County District Court Chief Judge Robert Fairchild, who worked with Riling at the firm from 1979 until he became a judge in 1996. "He couldn't play golf anymore, so he wanted to keep working."

During his career, which began in Lawrence in 1956 at Riling and Riling, his father and uncle's firm, Riling specialized in personal injury and workers compensation cases, Fairchild said. In fact, Riling was known throughout the state as an expert in workers compensation, Fairchild said.

"Gene was very well-respected, very well-liked," Fairchild said. "He was a zealous advocate but was always fair and really respected other lawyers."

Riling was born and raised in Lawrence. He graduated in 1956 with a law degree from Kansas University and began practicing in Lawrence about the same time as Ralph King, now a retired district judge.

"Gene was a strong person and a vigorous advocate in the courtroom  always honorable," King said. "His life was his family, his church, his work and the game of golf."

Riling served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. During his service in Korea, he was with the Korean Military Advisory Group. In 1958, at the age of 28, Riling lost a bid for county attorney to Wesley Norwood  a law school classmate who later became a partner at the firm.

Riling's sons Michael Riling and Timothy Riling practice law in Lawrence. Michael Riling works at the firm now known as Riling, Burkhead & Nitcher.

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