After practicing at the same Bend law firm for 44 years, attorney and former State Senator Neil Bryant is retiring on December 31.
Raised in Salem, Oregon, and a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and Willamette University School of Law, Neil came to Bend with his wife, Mary Arnstad Bryant, in 1973 to join the law firm of Gray, Fancher, Holmes & Hurley, now known as Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis. At the time he was hired, the firm was located in the Bond Street location where the Deschutes Brewery Public House now resides. Neil and Mary met at Pacific Lutheran University where Neil played football and Mary was the Centennial Queen. They married November 21, 1969 in Everett, Washington, Mary’s hometown.
The Gray Fancher firm had a long history in Bend prior to the Bryant’s arrival. Jay Upton, a 1905 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law, who served in both the Oregon House and Senate, founded the firm in 1915 with an office located in the bank building on the corner of Oregon Avenue and Bond Street. Upton was joined by Harvey DeArmond who served as the first District Attorney for Deschutes County. DeArmond also served two terms in the Oregon legislature, was President of the Oregon State Bar in 1939-40 and played a significant role in the formation and governance of irrigation districts throughout Oregon. DeArmond was known as a “dignified thoughtful person who liked a cigar, the Elks Club and a 5pm highball with his partners at his home on the corner of Greenwood and East Fourth Street.”
Besides Upton and DeArmond, the law firm Neil chose has included many other notable community leaders including Ralph Hamilton, who served in the state legislature and became Circuit Court Judge for Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties; Alva Goodrich, who was a WWII veteran, served multiple terms in the State Legislature, and served as general counsel to the Bend School Board and Robert Foley, who was also a WWII veteran, Deschutes County District Attorney, Circuit Court Judge and Oregon Court of Appeals Judge. Foley State Park, atop Pilot Butte, is named after Foley’s father.
Throughout his career, Neil maintained a deep respect for the firm’s legacy of commitment to the community. He was inspired by the efforts of others who made Oregon a better place for their children and grandchildren including Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield. Neil and Mary (through her innovative ideas and boundless energy as a teacher at Jewell, Cascade and Pilot Butte, and as founder of REALMS), have honored that legacy while making invaluable contributions of their own to our community, culminating in their selection by the Bend Chamber of Commerce as First Citizens of Bend in 2014.
Although Neil specialized in general business, estate planning, probate, and taxation, he has provided Central Oregonians with legal representation in many different areas of law during his 44 years in private practice. In addition to his legal career at Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis, Neil served as President of the Bend Chamber of Commerce and Greater Bend Rotary, as an Oregon State Senator from 1993 to 2001, and as a board member for many institutions and nonprofits including Pacific Lutheran University, Clear Choice Health Plans, OMSI, Oregon Progress Board, Oregon University System, High Desert Museum, Oregon Corrections Enterprises, Cultural Advocacy Coalition and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
Neil’s political career includes many contributions that have shaped Oregon and improved lives. As a Senator, Neil chaired the Judiciary Committee for six years and served on the following committees: Revenue, Ways and Means, Human Resources, Rules and Elections, Legislative Counsel, Water and Land Use, Business and Labor and the Emergency Board. Neil served as Assistant Majority Leader and Whip in 1995. He chaired the Criminal Justice Committee for the National Council of State Legislatures and served on its Executive Committee. Neil later served as Government Affairs Director for the Oregon University System and the Chancellor’s Office.
Neil’s legislative accomplishments include creating and implementing the Oregon Youth Authority, tough on crime laws, tort reform, worker’s comp reform, collective bargaining reform, the death with dignity initiative, numerous water use and protection efforts, all while balancing the State’s budget during his entire eight years in the State Senate. Neil received the 1995 Outstanding Freshman Legislator Award and the 1998 Outstanding Legislator Award by the National Republican Legislators Association.
Although Neil’s legal talents and professionalism have been exemplary, his commitment to public service, locally and statewide, has truly made him stand out. Following in the tradition of Upton, DeArmond, and the other attorneys at what is now known as Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis, Neil has tirelessly and successfully fought on behalf of Central Oregonians for over four decades. Through thoughtfulness, intelligence and compassion, Neil makes progress on issues while remaining respectful, encouraging those around him to likewise work together to make real progress and improve lives.
Many Oregonians will miss Neil’s passion for justice and good government. The current and past attorneys and staff at Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis feel they have learned much from Neil about professionalism and about serving our community. According to Mark Reinecke, BLJ attorney and shareholder, they intend to honor that legacy for at least another 100 years by continuing to provide professional, effective legal services as well as a determined commitment to serve the public. And, hopefully, Neil will occasionally stop by for a highball.
Neil and Mary have two grown children, Duff Bryant and Amy Fraley, and six grandchildren. In retirement, the Bryants expect to travel, visit their grandchildren, spend more time at their home in La Quinta, California, all while playing a little golf. On behalf of the lawyers and staff at Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis, as well as many other admirers in Bend and throughout Oregon, we thank Neil and Mary for their outstanding contributions and wish them well.