When I worked for Wilbur F. “Bill” Littlefield, the head public defender for L.A. County, we never discussed the war.
The war, his war, was World War II. Bill Littlefield had been a member of an elite intelligence unit that operated behind enemy lines. Dozens of missions. He was an Alamo Scout.
Bill Littlefield was my boss. The Boss. I worked for him for 10 years, beginning when I was 25.
Before we had kids, my husband, Len, and I car pooled together. Len was an associate with a downtown law firm and I was a brand-new deputy public defender. Most nights, I worked late in my office until Len came by to pick me up. By 6 p.m., the rest of our office was empty except for the cleaning crew. But one night, Ned Cook, a felony trial attorney, surprised me in the hallway.
“Why are you here so late?” he asked.
“Come down to the Boss' office with me,” said Ned.
“I can't do that,” I replied.
“Sure you can. We can both go.”
And so, several nights a week, I sat in Bill Littlefield's corner office, listening to “the Boss” and Ned, two of the finest trial lawyers in the country, talk about Ned's cases.
I mostly listened. Listened and learned.
Much has been written about Bill Littlefield. He deserves all the kind words and thoughts. He was professional, dedicated and kind. He was a tough but gracious advocate, always devoted to indigent criminal defense.
He set high standards for himself and for his attorneys, but he stuck up for us.
If he saw a homeless guy on the street, he'd stop to help, maybe drive the guy to the V.A. for treatment.
He believed in condolence calls and letters. He sometimes played jokes on his friends.
In an era when “working moms” were uncommon, Bill regaled me with stories of women who had four or five, even six or seven kids, and kept working. I never actually met any of those women, but the very idea of them created the possibility that we could combine career and family. He made it sound really simple. He always gave me a full year of maternity leave.
When our son, Andrew, was born, Bill brought us a full-sized baseball mitt and a size 3T football jersey, and said, “He really is beautiful. I thought you were saying that he was beautiful because all new mothers think their baby is beautiful. He really is a beautiful baby.”
When our daughter was born, he brought a pink dress.
He lived to see his own granddaughter graduate from law school and become a deputy public defender.
Whenever Andrew came home from Annapolis, Bill would meet us for breakfast in Pasadena. By then, Bill was retired and Andrew was a big galoot, but Andrew always gave Bill a hug and peppered him with questions about the war.
Bill liked to be a tough guy who rarely displayed emotion, but the memory of those hugs could make him cry.
He told me that for many years, he barely thought about his combat experiences, but that recently he had been flooded with memories. He could not stop thinking about the war. He began going to reunions of the Alamo Scouts, was filmed for a documentary and was featured in several books, including “Shadows in the Jungle” by Larry Alexander.
He began to share his war experiences with another retired public defender, a Korea vet named Ken Green.
Like Tom Brokaw says, it was the greatest generation.
We miss you, Bill.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.