The Hamilton Law Association
Born on September 4, 1928
Passed away on October 26, 2020
George Adam Clare Simpson passed away on October 26, 2020. Hamilton has lost one of its best litigators and a true gentleman.
George was born on September 4, 1928 in Hamilton. He practiced law for 53 years.
After graduating from McMaster University and Osgoode Hall, George practiced in Toronto for approximately 2 years and then moved back to Hamilton to join his father and brother, in 1956, at Simpson, Duncan. Simpson, Duncan became Simpson, Duncan, Hamel and Jackson and then, with a merger with the Christilaw, Wigle, Callaghan and Milne firm, became SimpsonWigle in 1986.
George had many memorable cases with other prominent Hamilton litigators such as John Agro, John White, Paul Philip, John Bowlby, David Crane, Bill Morris and Fred Luchak. He was steadfast in his long lasting professional and personal relationships with Paul Philp, Ken Howie, Doug Goudie and Mark Nimigan.
George practiced with integrity. He was single minded in pursuing his duty to achieve the best possible result for his client. He was a tough litigator.
Justice Arrell recently remarked that, for a young lawyer conducting examinations for discovery with George in opposition was difficult and daunting, but a great learning experience. Justice Arrell spoke warmly of George and the many social occasions that he enjoyed with him over the years.
My partner David Jackson recalls a story that says as much about George as it does about retired lawyer Bill Hubar from Agro, Zaffiro. George and Bill had settled a case one Friday evening, just before one of them was about to leave for vacation. The paperwork would wait. Later, Mr. Hubar’s insurer client disavowed the settlement. It hired Paul Lee, an irascible street fighting Irishman from Toronto. Mr. Lee chose to cross-exam George. Notably, Bill Hubar stood by his word and supported George’s client that a settlement had been reached. Apparently, Bill lost that insurer as a client.
At the outset of George’s cross-examination by Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee advised Mark Nimigan, who was ready with a Bible and his signature fountain pen, to swear George, but Mr. Lee indicated that would not be necessary as George was an Officer of the Court. George insisted that he be sworn. George later confided that he was concerned that Mr. Lee would later take advantage of the fact George was not sworn to discount his evidence. Mr. Lee was not from Hamilton. Practice in the 1970’s in Hamilton was different than today.
Over George’s long career, he saw the growth of a small firm into a regional firm with over 30 lawyers. George practiced through many changes in the business and legal worlds. George started before law offices had photocopiers. Then came the fax machine, personal computer, the internet and e-mail. I recall a seminar George and I took in the mid-90’s about the “world wide web”. It was a day long seminar on how to search the internet!
In the 1980’s, the practice of litigation was more informal than today. A lawyer would routinely be invited back behind the court counter to meet with either the Local Registrar or Sheriff in their respective offices and discuss particular issues. George stressed the expectation and importance of treating Hugh Guild, Reno Violin and other individuals in the administration of justice with the utmost civility and respect.
George primarily did motor vehicle defence work during his career. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel. George possessed superior intellect, and an appetite for hard work. He was a man of principle who always did things the right way; taking no shortcuts. His main clients were the Superintendent of Insurance and the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund, with additional work for the office of the Official Guardian. There was no back and forth with George; one knew absolutely where they stood.
If the Plaintiff’s lawyer did not agree with George’s assessment, there would be a trial. Many of these trials were with the late Bill Morris. And often these trials were extremely contested. During one of his absences from the office, George had to advise the Fund to find replacement counsel. George was dismayed when this lawyer ultimately settled the file with Bill.
George had the good fortune to practice with his brother Ben for over 50 years. They never once had an argument over the running of their law firm.
George was very honourable. I recall an incident in the early 1980’s when a filing cabinet tipped over and injured one of the assistants at Simpson, Duncan, Hamel and Jackson. George promptly recommended that she should sue the firm for compensation! She did.
George had a heart attack in 1981 and was off work for several months. Paul Ryan was hired to look after George’s files. Paul worked with George for 6 years, and then joined the City of Hamilton legal department.
Family was the most important thing in the world to George. He and his lovely wife Mary Ann were together for over 65 years. They, and their three children, and then their spouses and grandchildren, loved times at the family cottage in Southampton. George was not pretentious. He was a humble man of good character.
George retired from SimpsonWigle in 2009. After his retirement, he would regularly come into the office to visit the lawyers and assistants. George was famous for his delicious shortbread cookies.
George was a very charitable man. He volunteered his time for many good causes, including Kiwanis, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton’s Out of the Cold program, St. Matthew’s House and St. Christopher’s Anglican Church.
George had many interests and hobbies. These blossomed in his retirement. He had an elaborate woodworking shop in his home and made countless pieces, including wall units, beds, end tables, bird houses, doll houses, etc. I will forever cherish the salad bowl and end table he made for me and my wife Lorna. George was also a painter. He enjoyed making his famous apple sauce for his family.
George enjoyed travelling and visited countless parts of the world. He was an avid World War II historian and loved listening to classical music.
George enjoyed the outdoors, but on one occasion, it created a bit of a stir. George often carried around a small pocket knife. On one of his first trips to the Hamilton Courthouse after metal detectors had been installed, he realized he had brought his pocket knife. He quickly hid it under the carpeting and proceeded through the metal detector. After finishing Court, he went over to the same area to retrieve his pocket knife but it was no longer there. George then looked up to see the security guard brandishing the knife and saying “Mr. Simpson is this yours by any chance?”
George recognized the importance of mentoring and taught literally hundreds of lawyers advocacy skills and the principles of the profession. I was honoured to be one of those young lawyers and later proud to become his partner and friend. George was always interested in the lives of the people he worked with. He recognized that every person made an important contribution to the firm.
George leaves behind his wife Mary Ann and their three children, Nancy, Janet and Bruce as well as their spouses and George’s grandchildren.
Derek Schmuck, SimpsonWigle Law LLP
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