Wilbur Coleman Allen 1925-2011

Published in Richmond Times-Dispatch from January 19 to January 20, 2011

ALLEN, Wilbur Coleman, 85, a Richmond attorney, died Tuesday, January 18, 2011.

Mr. Allen was born April 30, 1925 in Lunenburg County. After moving to Richmond in 1932, he attended the Richmond public schools and graduated from the University of Virginia college and law school. WW II interrupted his studies, and he enrolled in Naval Officer Training. He shipped out to the Pacific, where, despite being at age 20 the youngest man on his ship, he was put in command of his LCT, which supported the fighting at Midway, Saipan, Tinian and Guam. With the help of his father and brothers, Mr. Allen developed the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen into one of the largest personal injury firms in the nation. Mr. Allen was president of the Allen Law Firm for 33 years, from 1957 to 1990. His love of the law inspired four of his children, Coleman, Clayton, Edward and Courtney, to become attorneys and join the firm. He served as president of the Richmond Bar Association in 1979, and remained active throughout his 50 years as a trial lawyer. Passionate about every attorney’s ethical duties, Mr. Allen served as chair of the Virginia Bar Association Special Committee on Professionalism from 1991 to 1994; he helped create one of the earliest aspirational “Creeds of Professionalism” for lawyers. An active supporter of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, he played a key role in creating the VTL/PAC and served as its first chair. Mr. Allen was recognized by his peers for inclusion in the book, Best Lawyers in America, from its first edition in 1983 until his retirement. He was named a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers after being nominated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.

A firm believer in community service, Mr. Allen was a charter member of the West Richmond Rotary Club, where he served as president, was a Paul Harris Fellow, and received the distinguished member award in 1980. He was appointed by the governor to the Board of Visitors of Virginia Commonwealth University and served from 1984 to 1987. Active in All Saints Episcopal Church for more than 50 years, Mr. Allen was the Superintendent of Sunday Schools for two decades, as well as Vestryman and Senior Warden.

Wilbur Allen is survived by his wife of 60 years, Frances Gayle Allen; five children and their spouses, Gayle and David Fitzgerald, Coleman and Anne Allen, Clayton and Lisa Allen, Edward and Nancy Allen, and Courtney and Peter Van Winkle; and 15 grandchildren, Matthew, Scott and Amy Fitzgerald, Sean, Kara, Channing, Turner, Carter, Parker and Mason Allen, Wilson, Christopher, Payton and Matthew Van Winkle, and Michael Lamons. He is also survived by two sisters, Lucy Burke Meyer and Patricia Winters; and his brother, Ashby B. Allen.

The family will receive friends at Bennett Funeral Home, 3215 Cutshaw Ave., from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 19. Funeral services will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 8787 River Road, at 12 noon on Thursday, January 20. Interment to follow at Hollywood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to All Saints Episcopal Church, 8787 River Rd., Richmond, 23229; the Boy Scouts of America, Heart of Virginia Council, 4015 Fitzhugh Ave., Richmond, 23230; or the Westminster Canterbury Foundation, 1600 Westbrook Ave., Richmond, 23227.