Sunday, February 02, 2020

David Brian Wallace, R.I.P.

I gave the eulogy at Brian's funeral last week in South Florida:

David Brian Wallace, 1955-2020

Brian Wallace was the "wind beneath my wings." He was my hero. He was my soulmate.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them."

David Brian Wallace was born in Karlsruhe, West Germany as Detleff Guntner Brenneissen, on March 4, 1955.

Brian was a brilliant, sensitive, caring, kind, courageous soul -- my best friend for more than 30 years. All that I am or hope to be I owe to Brian.

We met at 7:30 PM on July 25, 1989, in Washington, D.C.

Brian was 34 and I was 32. Brian called me a "Winnie the Pooh lawyer," and I compared him to Eeyore.

Within minutes of our meeting, on a walk-and-talk around DuPont Circle, when I proceeded to narrate historical events and places (like the March 15, 1957 bribery arrest of corrupt Teamsters Union President James Riddle Hoffa at the DuPont Plaza Hotel), Brian funnily inquired whether I had a "CD-ROM in my head," to which I replied, confused, "What's a CD-ROM?"

The first time I visited Brian's apartment near DuPont Circle, there were Gregorian chants on the stereo. His love of music was catholic (small "c") ranging from Mozart to rock, and later even jazz (which he initially thought was "too undisciplined."). Brian's sense of humor was inspired and infectious. I think he thought I was a musical Philistine. Hence, for the first six months, whenever music was playing in his museum-like apartment, I'd ask who performed it. He'd inevitably say, "David Bowie." I finally figured out he'd been teasing me much of the time.

Brian and I shared a love of nature, oceans, music, art, dogs, tropical plants, old and new movies, travel and advancing worker rights and environmental causes against dysfunctional organizations.

I loved him dearly. We were both only children. My parents loved him too -- upon meeting him, my mother said, "He's the kind of boy you want to take home and bake cookies for."

Brian raised my consciousness as a closeted Gay man, at a time when I was starting to come out.

I was afraid, very afraid.

Brian helped me immensely. Brian was not only my best friend, he was my muse and my best editor and coolest critic. My office mate once said she thought Brian was "in awe of me," to which he later responded, "I am not!"

Brian encouraged me to win a landmark Gay equal rights case against Woodward & Lothrop. I told the plaintiff, Duane Rinde, (point him out) to "channel Rosa Parks." Duane and I won GLAA awards.

The very next day, Brian and I flew to New Orleans to celebrate. He'd lived a year in New Orleans after service in the Air Force.  He was my native guide to New Orleans history and food.

Brian helped edit a 1991 article for the American Bar Association Human Rights Magazine, the first ABA article on Gay marriage. After that, he helped edit all my articles and legal documents.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of SCIENCE Magazine, it was Brian who contacted scientists around the world to ask them to help with peer review. When the world's finest scientists called AAAS, they asked for "Dr. Wallace," assuming Brian was a Ph.D. because he was so intelligent. Then he handled line-classified advertising for academic and scientific positions, a high-stress, low-paid job at a prestigious non-profit.

When AAAS fired Brian because he stood up for his rights, I was honored to represent him in his successful complaints before the District of Columbia Human Rights Office and the National Labor Relations Board. It was a short war. I advised Brian to "channel Rosa Parks," and he did.

Brian taught AAAS some manners. He tape-recorded his firing on a little micro-cassette recorder and caught the manager in her own sadistic words: "It is my unpleasant pleasure to fire you."

AAAS' Human Resources representative was so nervous at hearing her words, preserved on tape, that she lost one of her earrings!

NLRB was prepared to order Brian's immediate reinstatement, but he decided not to go back, accepting a five-figure financial settlement.

Later, we moved together to Houston, Deerfield Beach, and St. Augustine Florida, working together on environmental, nuclear, trucking and federal employee whistleblower cases.

As my paralegal, confidant, adviser, partner and general factotum, Brian inspired me to do my best.

Brian taught me not to take myself seriously -- a great gift.

We fell in love with St. Augustine in 1992, kept visiting, and moved there on November 5, 1999.

About a month after we moved to St. Augustine, Brian told me, "It's crooked around here!"

Brian was right, as usual.

Inspired by Brian, I've lost some of my shyness after 30 years. I've become a community activist, working to change Our Town, exposing environmental crimes and other wrongdoing.

In a 2014 Folio Weekly Magazine cover story about St. Augustine local corruption, the writer quoted Brian's letter of recommendation to the University of Florida, calling me "the pest who never rests."

He's made me a better person, and a "better pest." The lessons and courage Brian taught me helped bring justice to wrongdoers.

I miss Brian. Brian helped make the world a better place.

Brian was like a big brother to me.

My heart goes out to Brian's husband, Jerry Jauch, his sister, family and all of his friends.

In the words that my first boss, Sen. Ted Kennedy, said at Robert Kennedy's funeral in 1968:
“Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him.....”

And as Ted Kennedy said in 1979 at the funeral of my mentor from his staff, Mary Catherine Murtagh,
"To be truly human is to shape your own world. "

Brian did that, and we are in awe today. As I said when I started, for 30 years, Brian was truly "the wind beneath my wings."

In the words of the Psalmist: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4).

Farewell, Brian Bears.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

1 comment:

Judy Stephenson said...

ED, I am so sorry for your loss. Mine too for all the help he gave me also. He is with Jesus now.
Judy Stephenson