Brownhill was former district attorney

Thomas E. Brownhill

Thomas E. Brownhill, a former Clatsop County district attorney and the father of the Circuit Court’s presiding judge, died last week of pneumonia. He was 95.

Brownhill, of Eugene, served as Clatsop County district attorney from 1952 to 1960. Judge Paula Brownhill is one of his two daughters.

Paula Brownhill said her father taught her, among other things, to get to the heart of a witness’ testimony and never bore jurors.

“He considered every trial a work of art,” Paula Brownhill said.

Brownhill was born in 1921 in Warm Springs. He served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II, earning a Purple Heart decoration and entering Hiroshima days after an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city in August 1945.

He graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1950 before starting a private practice in Astoria.

Brownhill ran on the Democratic ticket against two Republican candidates in the same year as President Dwight Eisenhower’s election. The 30-year-old lawyer’s campaign slogan: “I’m young and active.”

As district attorney, Brownhill secured mineral rights in the southeast corner of the county after oil had been discovered there. He also taught local police that the trunks of their patrol cars should be considered evidence lockers.

After serving as district attorney, Brownhill returned to Eugene to practice business litigation and international trade law. Former Clatsop County Presiding Judge Guy Boyington, when he found out Brownhill was moving away, tearfully handed him a $100 bill and said, “Please take this,” Paula Brownhill said.

Prior to his 1981 retirement, Brownhill negotiated business deals between the U.S., Japan and other countries.

Besides his regular work, Brownhill served as president of the bar associations in Clatsop and Lane counties and the Oregon District Attorneys Association. His post retirement interests included short story and screenplay writing as well as acting.

Brownhill is survived by — among others — his wife, Jean, and daughters Ellen and Paula. His sister, Ann Austin, died 30 days ahead of him. The family will hold a private burial at the Milo Gard Cemetery north of Madras.