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Purdy prepares for judge's post

The judge-elect began his career as an attorney in Oregon when he was hired by a Portland firm

After more than 35 years as an attorney, Bill Purdy is brushing up on his law.

Sitting in his Main Street law office, Jackson County's newest Circuit Court judge ' to be sworn in next week ' thumbs through a volume of Oregon's criminal code bound in red leather. After observing court proceedings for the past year from the sidelines, the 68-year-old is set to move into his new office in the county's Justice Building on Tuesday.

Since serving as Asante's corporate counsel between 1996 and 2000, Purdy has focused on arbitration and mediation in construction law. Earlier in his career he specialized in real estate law, domestic relations and defended murderers, burglars and drunken drivers.

Nobody specialized that much, Purdy says of lawyers in the '60s and '70s. Everybody did a little criminal law.

Purdy began his career as an attorney in Oregon when he was hired by a large Portland firm. He came to Medford three years later as a partner in Frohnmayer, Deatherage, Foster and Purdy.

A graduate in civil engineering from the Iowa State University, Purdy traveled the world while employed with Chicago Bridge and Iron. He engineered oil refineries, nuclear power plants and water storage projects in Australia, Indonesia, Turkey and other countries.

But Purdy turned down an offer to manage the company's operation in Kuwait for three to five years, a proposition Purdy admits didn't thrill him. He enrolled in law school at University of Iowa.

Born during the Great Depression to parents who never finished high school, Purdy began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Iowa.

I think we all smelled like the cow barn, Purdy says of his classmates, many of whom were his own cousins.

Purdy helped out on the farm, where his family raised hogs, chickens and beef and dairy cattle. Yet he says he knew from an early age that farming wasn't for him.

I didn't want to milk cows for the rest of my life.

Purdy was usually always at the top of class, which numbered 60 graduates. He was a thespian and captain of the football and baseball teams, He drove a 1939 Ford two-door to school from his home 10 miles away.

When he was a sophomore in high school, his father, Allen, asked Purdy if he planned on farming or going to college. Without any regrets, Purdy handed over the farm to his sister LaDena and her husband.

At the University of Iowa, Purdy met his wife, Nancy. The couple celebrated their 38-year anniversary on Dec. 26. Their twin sons, Allen and James, work in construction ' James in Ashland and Allen in California. Their daughter, Emily, lives in Central Point.

Purdy's granddaughter, 12-year-old Jade, sat in on court hearings with him this year. The Ashland Middle School student wants to be a lawyer.

Purdy has served as president of the Jackson County Bar Association and the Oregon Association of Hospital Attorneys. He won the state bar Pro Bono Challenge for providing 375 hours of free legal service in 2001 and volunteers for Jackson County Legal Services.


County is on state's priority list for judges

Jackson County's population and projected growth has put it at the top of Oregon's list for new judges.

In 2000, Jackson County was ranked at the top of the judicial priority list backed by the state Supreme Court. The Legislature created Circuit Court Position 8 that appeared on the November ballot. Bill Purdy won the seat in a race against 44-year-old Joe Charter of Ashland.

To keep up with an increasing caseload, Jackson County is still ranked highly for yet another judge position even after Purdy comes on board, said Jim Adams, administrator for Jackson County Circuit Court.

The county last received an additional judge in 1997, the first gain since 1973. With two Circuit Court judges retiring in 1997, Phil Arnold, Patricia Crain and Dan Harris were appointed to the open positions and later elected.

A remodeling project in the county's Justice Building will create another courtroom and office space for the additional judge. The project also moves all the public service counters from the second floor to the first floor. Courtrooms will be on the second and third floors.