A remembrance: C. Boyden Gray, 1943-2023

Photo Credit: Getty

We mourn the passing of C. Boyden Gray.

He was a man of his family, the law, and his country. Boyden served in the highest levels of government and corporate law for decades.

It is tempting to reduce his life and contributions to the facts of an amazing career but that would be both a mistake and a disservice. Boyden Gray set the bar high for those who share a love of ideas, believe in a fine tradition of service, and are willing to do the hard work necessary to understand the details of the law.

I first met Boyden at his home. He had already earned stature and status, he had bearing, and an established belief system. His quick grin was as easy as the gravitas that enveloped him.

Characteristically, he had opened his home to a large number of friends and colleagues. He found me – one of the most junior people – in the corner of the parlor, mouth probably agape as I examined various framed mementos including a Civil War-era receipt or bill of lading adorned at the bottom with a simple “A. Lincoln.”

We chatted and the din of the room melted away. He asked about my interest and views on Lincoln, the war, and the law. He listened. He was teaching, by example, how to conduct oneself as well as how to think about complicated issues.

In college, I had studied the Herculean efforts that he undertook to negotiate and implement the landmark 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Later, I would sit with him at a luncheon. His eyes danced as he told a mischievous story about using the sirens and lights of his government motorcade after a forgettable dinner in Brussels. It concluded with guffaws all-around and no doubt about his confidence in the European Union as a political project.

We met many times through the years, and my admiration for him grew. Whether it was a reflection on his pet pot-bellied pig or a conversation about cap-and-trade mechanisms, he was thoughtful. Along with attorneys at the firm bearing his name, Boyden represented CEI in a case challenging the constitutionality of certain characteristics of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Only in the past few years did I bring myself to argue with Boyden. I regret that it took me so long to engage him on his own terms. He reveled in debate. It was not primarily intellectual combat, it was a process of discovery. He always rose to the moment – with facts, precedent, political analysis – within easy reach. He listened because he cared about the details and respected others. 

C. Boyden Gray was a trusted and faithful servant, a friend, and a man of devotion. Requiescat in Pace.