Clayton Byam: Seven Decades Serving the Law 2/15/18 03/20/18 3:03:31 PM
Clayton ByamSeven Decades Serving the Law
June 29, 1922 – March 1, 2018
“He had a good run. He loved everything about his 70 years as a lawyer.”
Joseph C. Byam Sr. summed up his father Clayton’s long life.
Clayton Byam was laid to rest last week at the age of 95.
“He left the office in June of 2017 to care for my mother. Up until then, he came in every day. He loved it, he couldn’t wait to get here,” Joe Byam said.
Also a lawyer, Joe had joined his father in the practice in 1982. Joe’s son, Joe Jr., joined them several years ago. “Three generations. It was wonderful,” Joe said.
“When he left, it was like a little part of him disappeared. His identity was so closely aligned with his role as a lawyer. There was just no substitute.”
“The fact that he practiced law for 70 years was a contributing factor to his good health, I believe, allowing him to live 95 years.”
His son described him as “old-fashioned” and “classy.” “And he was a great conversationalist and storyteller.”
He noted that although his dad was born and raised in big cities – Chicago and Kansas City – when he moved to Omaha to attend Creighton, then Creighton’s law school, he fell in love with Omaha. “He thought it was a great place to live.”
Unfortunately, he didn’t live here long before World War II came calling, interrupting his legal education. He was drafted and spent the first part of his deployment in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska and the rest of it in the European Theater. When the war ended, he and a friend jumped in a Jeep and drove across France to catch a ship home. The trip took a while, because they stopped to explore all the World War I battlefields and cemeteries along the way. That contributed to his lifelong interest in the First World War, Joe said. That, and the fact that his uncle, Bob Webb, was a WWI veteran, which lent him a certain cachet.
Clayton finished up his legal education at DePaul University and then returned to Omaha in 1947, where he started working as a lawyer, first with his uncle Bob. Their firm eventually became Webb, Kelly, (Jim) Green & Byam. “That was a wonderful part of his life,” Joe said.
But Clayton was just getting started when he got a letter informing him he was being called up again by Uncle Sam to serve during the Korean War. By then he had met and married his wife, Irma. Fortunately, since he was a lawyer by then, the Army decided to send him to Fort Sheridan in Lake Forest, Ill., a reception and processing center for military personnel. That suited him and his wife just fine. He still had relatives nearby. But when his service was up, they headed back to Omaha.
The family was growing. Clayton and Irma had five children, two boys and three girls.
When Jim Green died in 1968, Clayton’s firm moved to West Omaha, when there was nothing else out there, where Bill Hotz joined him. Eventually his firm was Hotz, (Bill Hotz, father of Ed Hotz), Byam & (John) Kellogg.
Later, the firm that became Byam & Hoarty located its offices where it still is today, in the American National Building at 90th and Dodge.
Clayton Byam served as president of the Omaha Bar in 1974-75. Only two former presidents who served before him are still living (Francis Matthews and Harold Rock). He was also a member of the Nebraska State Bar’s House of Delegates.
Byam is survived by his wife of 66 years, Irma; children Joseph, Ann, Mary, Catherine and Thomas; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. The family requested that memorials be directed to Creighton Prep, Duchesne Academy, Madonna School or Rockhurst High School in Kansas City.
– By Lorraine Boyd