Roger William Sleight, LLB ’63, August 6, 1938-May 8, 2019

This obituary first appeared in San Francisco Chronicle on May 12, 2019.

A 54 year resident of San Francisco, Roger William Sleight, oldest son of Roger William Alexander Sleight and Virginia Claire Searls Sleight, died peacefully on the 8th of May, 2019 at The Tamalpais in Greenbrae, California.

Roger was born August 6, 1938, in Batavia, New York. His family owned and operated both the bank and the general store in Oakfield, New York, in the early 1900s. His father worked for the US Department of Defense as an Air Force Contracting Officer and his mother was a social worker in Honeoye Falls, New York. His family was active in both the Batavia and Honeoye Falls Presbyterian Churches.

Roger graduated in 1954 from Spencerport High School, Rochester, New York where he was a marching trombone player in the band, an Eagle Scout and the recipient of both the National War Memorial and New York State Regent’s Scholarships.

Roger attended Colgate University, graduating with a BA in Russian Studies in 1959. Among many other activities and accomplishments, he was the Signa Nu Commander, Vice President of Pi Delta Epsilon, a member of the Student Senate, and Editor-in-Chief of Colgate’s Salmagundi Yearbook. A Phi Beta Kappa, he was named in Whose Who of American Colleges and Universities.

Continuing on with his fascination with everything Russian, Roger learned to speak, read and write Russian and received his Master’s Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Harbor, in 1960.
He received his JD from Stanford University Law School in 1963 when President Kennedy was in office. He embarked on what would be a 50-year legal career by immediately joining Sedgwick, Detert, Moran and Arnold, then a small firm of about 17 attorney’s with a single office in San Francisco. He remained at the firm for his entire career. Later known as Sedgwick LLP, the firm went on to become an international defense trial firm, with more than 14 offices and several hundred attorneys, internationally, at its zenith.

He served as managing partner of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran and Arnold from 1980-1990. He was instrumental in the firm’s early expansion, overseeing the opening of Sedgwick offices in Los Angeles, (1979), London, New York and Zurich (1985), Orange County (1988) and Chicago (1989). Roger was a 50 year member of the California State Bar and California Supreme Court.

Roger was appreciated by all who knew and worked with him as a brilliant legal mind and a gentle soul. In managing the law firm, he treated all attorneys and personnel with great respect, and he was always available to partners, associates or employees to deal with their problems and questions with patience, wit, wisdom and compassion. While extremely modest, Roger was an accomplished trial lawyer who tried more than 100 trials during his illustrious career, and spent countless hours doing pro bono work. He will be remembered as an exemplary attorney, a highly respected managing partner, a beloved mentor and friend, with a heart of gold.
In addition to his legal career, Roger had many other interests. He was a world traveler who twice climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. He ran the San Francisco Marathon twice. He was a Life Master Bridge player and a life-time San Francisco Symphony ticket holder. Grieg, Nielsen and Sebilius were his favorite composers.

Roger will always be remembered for his brilliant, honorable and egalitarian mind His favorite saying was “Libert’e, Egalit’e, Fraternit’e.”

Roger is survived by his spouse of 42 years, Mark Charles Backer, his brother Richard Alden Sleight (Sharon), his nephews Joshua and Zachary Sleight, his great-niece Sydney Sleight, and his cousin Barbara Doane, Susan O’Leary, Stephen Gilbert and Rae Wulfhorst.