In Memoriam: William W. Godward


Sandy Tatum

Cooley mourns the loss of William W. Godward, who passed away Sunday, February 24, at the age of 105.

One of Bill’s most profound contributions to Cooley was his deep caring for all the people who work here. He reminded us, in both words and deeds, that Cooley is built on the values of teamwork, collegiality and a concern for the well-being of others. He cared deeply about his family, friends, clients, partners and co-workers. For years, he would offer this toast at holiday parties: “From each of us to all of us, from all of us to each of us, for all of the help and indulgence and kindness and assistance throughout the year and into the future.”

Bill was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (Phi Beta Kappa) and Boalt Hall School of Law (now Berkeley Law). He began his career at Barrett & McConnell in Santa Rosa and later joined Cooley, Crowley & Supple in San Francisco. After less than a year at the firm, Bill was commissioned as an officer in the Navy and served throughout the Pacific during World War II, mainly in the Philippines. He returned to Cooley in 1945 and became a partner in 1947. During his more than 70 years at the firm, he counseled clients in areas such as banking, media and manufacturing.

Bill was a trusted adviser on professional and personal matters. Among his many clients were Frank and Antonia Bartholomew, who started a foundation to preserve Bartholomew Park. This historic site in Sonoma Valley is home to vineyards established by Count Agoston Haraszthy in the early 1850s. For many years, Bill served as trustee to the Bartholomew Park Foundation, which is dedicated to fostering and promoting viticulture and winemaking in California. Another long-term client was The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, with which he had a decades-long relationship. In 1985, Bill negotiated the sale of the paper to the New York Times. He then helped the client create the Finley Foundation, which supports a number of art, social services and youth organizations in Sonoma County.

Bill was uncommonly bright and would “roll up his sleeves,” both literally and figuratively, to get the job done. He was also known by his clients and colleagues for his strong moral code and commitment to transparency. He served as a member of the State Bar of California Ethics Committee and later became its chairman.

Bill also found his passion for the arts early in life when he became a season ticket holder at the San Francisco Opera in 1951. He went on to serve in various leadership roles at the opera, including as vice chairman of the board and president. Bill was instrumental in facilitating the renovations to the War Memorial Opera House, which was severely damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake that struck the Bay Area in 1989.

Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Ann, who passed away in 1994. He is survived by his daughter, Jennifer, son-in-law, Ned, and three grandchildren, Catherine, Margaret and John.

We will forever miss and honor Bill’s spirit at Cooley.