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Lowell Carruth, longtime Fresno attorney and ‘titan of the bar,’ dies

Lowell T. Carruth stands on the fourth floor patio of the McCormick Barstow Sheppard Wayte Carruth law firm at River Park Place near Woodward Park in 1997. Carruth was named best trial lawyer of the year by his colleagues of the American Board of Trial Lawyers.
Lowell T. Carruth stands on the fourth floor patio of the McCormick Barstow Sheppard Wayte Carruth law firm at River Park Place near Woodward Park in 1997. Carruth was named best trial lawyer of the year by his colleagues of the American Board of Trial Lawyers. FRESNO BEE

Lowell Carruth, a veteran of more than 200 jury trials during 51 years as a Fresno lawyer who also influenced the appointment of dozens of state and federal judges, died Oct. 23 in Fresno. He was 77.

“Lowell was truly a titan of the bar,” said Justice Brad Hill of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno. “He had the highest ethical standards and was an extraordinarily gifted trial attorney.”

Mr. Carruth, who was born on April 11, 1938 in Fresno, spent most of his life in the central San Joaquin Valley. He left briefly for college, receiving an economics degree from Stanford University in 1959 and his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.

After passing the bar, he worked as an associate at Kimble, Hamlin & MacMichael from 1963-64 and as a Fresno County deputy district attorney from 1964-66 before joining McCormick Barstow LLP, where he worked until just a few weeks before his death. He also served as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves before being honorably discharged in 1969.

At McCormick Barstow, Mr. Carruth focused mostly on civil litigation, defending clients in cases such as medical malpractice, product liability, breach of contract and wrongful termination.

During his legal career, Mr. Carruth shaped the careers of countless attorneys. Retired federal judge Oliver Wanger was one such lawyer.

“He was integral to my ascension,” said Wanger. “I started at the firm (McCormick Barstow) in 1974 and took the bench in 1991. There were at least two generations of lawyers to come through in that span, and Lowell led them by example.”

Mr. Carruth served on advisory committees for judicial selection at both the state and federal levels, often advising Gov. Pete Wilson during his time in Sacramento and as a U.S. senator. Wilson and Mr. Carruth were roommates in law school, and remained lifelong friends.

Mr. Carruth also served on many legal boards throughout his career. He was included on the Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers list for Northern California from 2004-15.

He also served as chairman of the board for Saint Agnes Medical Center.

Larry Wayte, a longtime friend and partner of Mr. Carruth’s at McCormick Barstow, called him “a very classy guy – very bright.”

Wayte attended Fresno High School with Mr. Carruth, as well as Stanford. He praised his friend’s tennis prowess. Mr. Carruth played collegiate tennis and once competed at Wimbledon. He won multiple Fresno city championships in various age groups over the years, and he was part of a team that won the U.S. Tennis Association Senior League Tennis 4.5 National Championship in 1991.

Mr. Carruth is survived by his wife, Jane; son Kenton and daughter Marlo.

Information about services was unavailable Saturday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the first name of Mr. Carruth’s wife as Jayne.

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