Kenneth Pursley, 75, a founding partner of the Givens Pursley law firm in Downtown Boise, died in October during a fishing trip in Brazil, when his boat overturned on a tributary of the Amazon River.
With an unconventional academic pedigree — he earned a law degree from University of Chicago without finishing high school — Pursley moved to Boise in 1970.
He ran for Congress as a Democrat in the 1976 election and lost, going on to co-found what is now the Givens Pursley law firm in 1977 with Ray Givens, Charles McDevitt and Jay Webb. The firm is now one of Idaho’s largest, with more than 40 lawyers. Givens died in 2008 and Webb in 2011. Pursley, an expert in land-use and real-estate development law, retired in 2005.
A video, put together by Givens Pursley as part of the law firm’s tribute to him, includes stories from McDevitt and other partners about the attorney, business leader and mentor to young lawyers over the decades.
I’m so thankful that the stars and the moon steered me to be able to share part of Ken’s life.
Co-managing partner Ed Miller
“He gave us a great platform from which to allow us to succeed and to carry on his legacy, and we can’t thank him enough for that opportunity,” says co-managing partner Chris Beeson.
“Over the last 50 years, I don’t think there’s another firm in Idaho that started organically that’s the size of the firm we have now, and I think that’s a tribute to Ken,” Pat Miller says.
“One of my first partner meetings at the firm, I spoke up on an issue that was tense,” says Deborah Nelson. “And I felt at the time that it caused some ripples. The next day, I got the characteristic note from Ken: a yellow sticky note right on the computer screen that said ‘See me. -KLP.’ I worried about it for a while and finally ran into Ken in the kitchen and he said, ‘I just wanted to let you know I was proud of you for what you said last night.’ That was it — a couple of words from him could lift you up and make you feel proud.”
Kimberly Maloney says, “When I was a very new lawyer, I had the opportunity to work closely with Ken for a couple of years ... . He would sit in his office with his feet up on his very messy desk and stare you down and ask you why you put a single word into your agreement, and you had to defend that from start to finish. Ken has really had a good impact on my writing, and I think about that a lot now.”
Says Don Knickrehm: “Put simply, he was not a snappy dresser. In fact, he didn’t much care about clothes. But he cared about issues. (During his campaign for Congress) we would have to sneak his shoes out of his room and go get them polished. And we’d have to remind him to tuck in his shirt-tail when he was on camera.”
Says Deb Kristensen: “He would show up in your doorway before a big decision was going to be made and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be considering this issue.’ Now, it doesn’t mean he hadn’t already decided what was going to happen and how it was going to go down. But he made you believe that you were helpful in making that decision. ... You’d ultimately reach the same decision that he had, and (he’d) say, ‘Well, that was a really great decision, Deb, thanks for talking.’ But you’d feel like you were part of it. ... He was able to guide us without us really knowing it at times.”
I would often see him in his office ... with his feet up on the desk and the blunt end of a pen in his mouth, chewing and looking up at the ceiling thinking, thinking. And it was always, I knew, to somebody’s great benefit — often this firm’s.
Says Tom Dvorak: “Even though he retired 10 years ago, I still feel his presence around this place. ... I still, just in this building, have that expectation that I’d come around a corner and he’d be there, and he’s not going to be.”
Says Chris Meyer: “One thing that he tried to teach, and I’ve tried to learn, is the power of using fewer words. ... Ken, you’ve done well by all of us. We miss you horribly.”
Pursley is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; children Sara, Ben and Sean; and siblings Ted, John, Jan and Karla.