A Seat at the Bar: Seniors to Roast DeMuth
by Sara Crocker
The longtime general counsel for US West admits he’s unsure what his roasters, including retired Judge Kenneth Barnhill and Peter Willis, will have to say about him.
Willis, who was chief trial counsel at US West and is now of counsel at Kutak Rock, recalled they had the "unfortunate" privilege of going to Vermont each fall for a shareholder’s meeting of a company they ran together. "It was just a gorgeous time of year," Willis said.
One year they were there and DeMuth was asked to give an interview to a media outlet comparing Vermont and Colorado aspen trees. "He was very diplomatic," Willis said.
DeMuth was first in his class at the University of Colorado School of Law, where his father Laurence DeMuth, Sr. taught, and that distinction got him his first job at Akolt Turnquist Shepherd & Dick when he graduated.
He took a leave of absence from the firm when he was called to active duty in Albuquerque, N.M., and was in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. During his duty, he was once able to get a special assignment to see one of the atomic bomb tests. "You can’t believe how beautiful an atomic blast is," he said. "The colors in it are unbelievable."
He remained with the firm until 1968, when he was asked by a client, telecom company Mountain Bell, to become its general counsel and vice president. He stayed in that role until 1984, when the Bell system broke up. From there, he served as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for US West until he retired in 1992.
"I’ve had a very, very interesting career, and I have been very fortunate," he said.
DeMuth admits he was surprised when he found out the Seniors Committee wanted to roast him.
"I never imagined myself being anybody they would want to roast," he said.
Some say DeMuth, the 28th roastee since the event started, may be tough to roast. Barnhill said DeMuth can be serious, but he did recall, with a laugh, how DeMuth meticulously recorded what they owed each other when they traveled in Europe, even accounting for exchange rates country by country.
Willis said DeMuth was a visionary in setting up the legal department for one of the largest companies in the nation when Mountain Bell became US West. For DeMuth, it offered an inside look at how technology was evolving."People don’t understand how dramatically the technology was changing in the communications business," he said. "That was the time when computers and communications were becoming wedded."
DeMuth has also been committed to serving the community, working on many boards including the Colorado Judicial Institute and the Telecommunications History Group.