Login | December 13, 2018

Colleagues, family remember attorney Robert W. Higham

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: February 28, 2018

During his long career, Akron attorney Robert W. Higham held several different positions in the legal profession, but colleagues and family say his real passion was private practice.

As an attorney, Higham became known for his compassion and generosity toward his clients, willingness to help other lawyers and his motto of “family first.”

But on Jan. 13 the Bath Township resident passed away at the age of 77.

“My dad was a fantastic father,” said his son Robert C. Higham. “He made sure we had the best possible upbringing. We had a great house with a big yard that was the neighborhood playground and he planned incredible trips every summer across the country for the family.

“He was an excellent attorney, who was very good at resolving whatever difficulties his clients were having,” said Robert, an attorney in the Summit County Executive’s Office. “His clients loved him and constantly sent him cards and boxes of cigars. He is the reason I became a lawyer.”

Higham’s former assistant Rebecca Lecky said Higham “always took the high road and went out of his way to help people.

“A large portion of his clients were financially stressed,” she said. “He never worried about collecting the money, he always said let’s get the work done first. If a client could not pay, he never turned the person away.

“His slogan was ‘family first’ and he meant it,” she said. “Whenever I had a family emergency he told me to go home and he’d take care of things at the office.”

Born in Rochester, New York on Jan. 15, 1940 to Robert J. and Margaret Higham, he was the second oldest of their four children and their only son.

Higham graduated from John Marshall High School in Rochester, where he was senior class president, captain of the basketball team and an All-State baseball player.

“My father was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals right out of high school,” said Robert. “He instead chose to go to college, but his passion for baseball continued his whole life and whenever we went on vacation we always stopped at a ballpark.

“He loved coming home early on Saturdays and taking us to Indians games at the old Municipal Stadium,” said Robert. “He was a season ticket holder when Jacobs Field opened.”

In 1958 Higham enrolled at Baldwin-Wallace College, but two years later he transferred to Kent State University. While at Kent State he worked at the Summit County Juvenile Court Detention Center.

After graduating, he took a job as a weekend intake officer at the juvenile court and was an adjuster at Nationwide Insurance. At Nationwide, he met sole practitioner Jerry Glinsek.

“I had just finished my second year of law school at The University of Akron when I met Bob at Nationwide,” said Glinsek. “We became friends and he told me he was interested in law school so I suggested he talk to the dean at Akron Law.”

Higham would go on to receive his juris doctor from The University of Akron.

When he became a sole practitioner, he shared office space with Glinsek at two different locations.

“Bob did a lot of personal injury and probate work,” said Glinsek. “He was the perfect attorney to share an office with because any time I had a question on those matters he would answer it.

“Bob was the ideal lawyer—honest, straightforward, calm and he did everything right.”

John Riemenschneider, of counsel at Roderick Linton Belfance said he and his wife introduced Higham to Kathie, the woman he would later marry.

“Bob and I met at Baldwin-Wallace College and we later went to night school together at Akron Law,” said Riemenschneider. “At that point he was single and my wife was a school counselor at Goodrich Middle School, where Kathie taught special education classes.”

Higham married Kathie in 1968. They have three children, Laurie, Robert C. and Tim.

Riemenschneider and Higham remained friends, later sharing office space for about five years.

“Bob was a straight shooter,” Riemenschneider said. “If he gave his word that’s all you needed.”

He said they continued to work together and consult on cases on and off until the fall of 2017.

“We often played handball at the YMCA and he sometimes joined a group of us who used to go to the Indians spring training,” said Riemenschneider.

When Higham first graduated from Akron Law, he briefly worked for the City of Akron as an assistant prosecutor before returning to the Summit County Juvenile Court as a referee and starting a part-time general practice.

While a referee he met sole practitioner Jasper Liggins, who was a probation officer at the time.

“Bob was an intelligent man, who helped many people,” said Liggins. “He was a very fair referee.

“When I decided to start my own practice in 1975, Bob let me use his office in the evenings and on weekends until I got on my feet.

“Any time I had a question, he would always answer it,” he said. “One thing about Bob if he promised you something you could take it to the bank, and if he said no, there was no changing his mind.”

Higham left the court around 1980 to start a full time practice. Around the same time, he began teaching criminal justice and paralegal classes at The University of Akron.

He became a full-time professor and started a paralegal program at the school.

“My dad was voted the most popular teacher in the criminal justice program just about every year he taught,” said Robert. “He was basically a seven-day-a-week kind of guy, so if he was not teaching he was at the office.

“When he wasn’t working, he loved attending sporting events, playing baseball, fast pitch softball, basketball, handball and having dinners at his house for family and friends.”

Higham also pitched for two teams (Cavanaugh’s and Rockne’s) while a member of the Akron Attorneys Coed Slow Pitch Softball League.

A longtime member of the Ohio State and Akron bar associations, Higham retired in November 2017.

For the last six years of his career, he shared office space with his son Robert in Fairlawn, who also had a private practice before moving to the county law department.

Higham and his wife were active members of Christ Woodland United Methodist Church for 49 years and he served as the church’s pro bono legal counsel.

His funeral was held at the church on Jan. 20. He’s been interred at Rose Hill Burial Park.

He’s survived by his wife Katharine (Swank); daughter Laurie Heidman; sons Bob (Christine) Higham and Tim Higham; grandchildren Brittany and C.J. Heidman, Bobby and Katie Higham; sisters Gladie (Ray) Gilmartin and Susan Golembeski; brother-in-law Chuck (Davileen) Swank and 11 nieces and nephews.

He parents and his sister Elaine (Carleton) Boyd preceded him in death.


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