Yale '62 - Obituaries - Robert W. Beynart

Robert W. Beynart

Born: June 11, 1940
Died: December 27, 2000

Bob Beynart was born in Hudson, New York, and prepared at Hudson High School. He was the son of Lithuanian immigrants who died while he was a teenager. On scholarship throughout his Yale career, he was an American Studies honors major, a ranking scholar and on the Dean's List. Bob was a member of Saybrook where he played touch football.

Following Yale he attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1965, and began a practice of law in Atlanta which led to an illustrious career, as a litigator, teacher, and expert on ethics. Bob was an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law and a partner in the firm of Smith, Gambrell and Russell at the time of his death.

Bob "was the person who we looked to for guidance concerning ethical issues," says Lisa L. Ballentine, a partner in the law firm. She says that Beynart interviewed her for her job with the firm and she considered him her mentor. She was not alone. "Partners and associates alike sought his counsel," she says. "He had a very gentle way of pointing out what flaws he saw in your reasoning or your approach."

"He was more than a great lawyer," she says. "He was the consummate teacher. I think he carried that over into his teaching at Emory. He always took great comfort that he was instructing potential lawyers in not only how to conduct civil litigation but in how to conduct themselves."

Every year, Bob would address the new lawyers at his firm on ethical issues and help improve their oral advocacy and writing skills. His notes on ethical law practice continue to be used in the training of associates in the firm, reported David Newman, another Smith, Gambrell partner. One of the rules he taught was, "If you have any doubt, don't do it." Another lesson he handed down was, "You can be a good lawyer and a good father as well." "He was an outstanding lawyer B the brightest lawyer I have ever known B but he had that balance in his life. Lawyering was very important to Bob, but his wife and family were more important," Newman said.

Beynart joked, even in difficult times. When his doctor told him that test results showed a skin cancer had metastasized, Beynart said, "Well, at least it didn't show that I was a Republican," his wife, Kay Menkovitz Beynart, recalls.

Despite the diagnosis, he continued to teach Emory students. And he took pleasure in his hobbies. He read history and built, with the help of friends and family, what he called, "the model railroad layout of my dreams" B and 8-by-22-foot creation for his dozens of locomotives and hundreds of trains, cars and airplanes.

In addition to his widow, Bob was survived by his two sons, Daniel Justin of Athens, Georgia, and Timothy William of Baltimore; a daughter, Jennifer Beynart Pachus of Needham, Massachusetts; a brother, John Paul Beynart of Hudson, New York; a sister, Patricia Beynart DeCrosta of Jacksonville, Florida; and a granddaughter.