It is with great sadness that we report the passing on November 18, 2013, of Morgan L. Fitch, Jr., a highly regarded leader, outstanding lawyer, and dear friend who spent all 58 years of his legal career with our firm. Mr. Fitch died just three days shy of his 91st birthday.
Mr. Fitch led an abundantly active and productive life. Born on the South Side of Chicago, he attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in 1943. His virtually lifelong affiliation with the U.S. Navy began with his induction as ensign in April of 1943, during the height of World War II. As a radar officer in a Navy aircraft squadron, Mr. Fitch survived two kamikaze attacks on escort carriers to which he was assigned. Ultimately achieving the rank of Lieutenant (S.G.), his active duty ended in 1946, and he remained with the U.S. Navy Reserves until 1955.
Following World War II, Mr. Fitch attended law school at the University of Michigan, earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1948, and joining the Chicago-based law firm that would one day bear his name, then known as Soans, Pond & Anderson. His practice encompassed all aspects of intellectual property law. In 1956, Mr. Fitch became a name partner, and he served as the firm’s managing partner for over 30 years. During that time, he was a tireless mentor to many of the firm’s attorneys—and to many others outside the firm. Mr. Fitch led by example, continually challenging his colleagues to excel, not only in their mastery of the law, but in their understanding of their clients’ industries and their dedication as trusted advisors and partners to those clients. Mr. Fitch demonstrated that same commitment to numerous key clients during his extensive career, including Kraft Foods, Cargill, and the Institute of Paper Chemistry, retiring from practice in 2006.
Mr. Fitch also devoted several decades to the Navy League of the United States, beginning with its Chicago Council in 1950, and eventually serving as its national president. Most notably, in 1958, Mr. Fitch was instrumental in founding the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC), a nonprofit civilian youth training organization for young people ages 13 through 17. Four years later, in 1962, Congress granted the NSCC its official charter. Mr. Fitch not only drafted the original charter and served on the NSCC’s first governing board, he continued to be a major benefactor of the NSCC for the remainder of his life, and was honored in 2012 at the 50th anniversary of the Corps’ chartering by Congress. As part of his legacy, the Morgan L. Fitch, Jr. trophy was established years ago, and continues to be awarded annually to the outstanding Navy League Cadet Corps unit in the nation.
After serving as the national president of the Navy League, Mr. Fitch joined the National Committee of the Exploring Program of the Boy Scouts of America to chair the Sea Exploring Program. He became commodore and then vice chair of the committee, overseeing Specialty Exploring.
In 2007, Mr. Fitch was a recipient of the Lone Sailor award. A highly prestigious honor, the Lone Sailor award is presented to sea service veterans who have excelled with distinction in their respective civilian careers while continuing to exemplify the Navy core values of honor, courage, and commitment. In receiving this award, Mr. Fitch joined the ranks of U.S. presidents, celebrated actors, renowned professional athletes, and other luminaries so honored.
While the law was truly his calling, Mr. Fitch’s service to community was his hallmark. He was on the board of a neighborhood bank for many years, eventually serving as chairman. Mr. Fitch was affiliated with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago for over 75 years, serving on its board of managers and ultimately became a life trustee. In addition, Mr. Fitch served on the boards of the USO of Illinois, Tri-State (now Trine) University, and the Jon Crerar Library at the University of Chicago.
(Updated) Mr. Fitch's beloved wife of 68 years, Helen, passed away 17 days after him, on December 5. He is survived by his cherished children, Ruth, Mary, Morgan, and Frederick, as well as eight grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and his brother James. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family at this time. We are proud to carry on the work of the firm he was so influential in building and managing for so many years.
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