Bill Bransford, passionate defender of feds, dead at 66

Friday - 9/27/2013, 3:53pm EDT

(This story was updated to include information on Bransford's viewing and funeral.)

Bill Bransford, 66, one of the top lawyers in federal labor and employment law and a fierce advocate for federal employees, died Friday after a long illness.

Bransford practiced law as a partner at Shaw Bransford & Roth for 30 years. Bransford also served as the general counsel for a host of federal managers' groups, including the Senior Executives Association, and was a frequent lecturer and commentator on federal employment issues.

"Bill had a deep passion for the law and for representing his clients," said law partner Debra Roth in a statement posted to the Shaw Bransford & Roth website. "He led the firm by advocating the value of fairness, compassion and professionalism which carried through in both his public and private life. Bill's legacy is that he practiced law like a gentleman. He perfected the art of zealousness for his clients, while practicing with the utmost civility and respect for the process."

The viewing for Bransford will be held Tuesday, Oct. 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at De Vol Funeral Home in Washington, D.C. The mass of Christian burial will be the following day at 10 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, Bill's family requests donations to the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA).

Mike Causey, Federal News Radio's senior correspondent, said he first met Bransford some 30 years ago shortly after he helped found the law firm that bore his name — then under the name Shaw Bransford and O'Rourke.

William L. Bransford, partner, Shaw Bransford & Roth

"Nobody was practicing government employment law then. ... They made it a business, a science," Causey said. "They represented some of the top cases. They're considered the best in the business."

As general counsel of the SEA, Bransford helped represent some 8,000 Senior Executive Service employees on Capitol Hill.

"Bill's contribution to SEA's legislative achievements has been exceptional and his wise counsel invaluable," said SEA President Carol Bonosaro in a statement. "He was deeply committed to fairness and respect for federal employees in general and career executives in particular. All career executives owe him a debt of gratitude."

Causey added that Bransford was well liked on Capitol Hill. "I never saw him in action as an attorney, but somebody once said he was the best litigator they'd ever seen," he said.

Bransford also had a hand in more than half a dozen organizations, large and small, devoted to federal employees and managers.

He served as general counsel for the Federal Managers Association, the FAA Managers Association and the National Council of Social Security Management Association. In addition, he served as an adjunct professor at George Washington University as part of its Senior Leader Program for aspiring SES employees.

"He was, literally, passionate about government workers," Causey said. "He really lived and breathed federal workers and their rights. I've seen a lot of phonies, but he was for real."

Born on Aug. 21, 1947, Bransford earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, a law degree from Cleveland State University and a Master of Laws in Labor Law degree from Georgetown University. He also served as the chair of the Public Employees Roundtable and the Federal Dispute Resolution advisory board and on the board of the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund

A former fed himself, Bransford served as a senior attorney in the Internal Revenue Service's Office of Chief Counsel before he joined Shaw Bransford & Roth.

For more than a dozen years, Bransford co-hosted FEDtalk, a biweekly show on Federal News Radio 1500 AM, and he was a regular contributor to the Federal Drive program's Legal Loop segment.

"Bill Bransford has been a part of Federal News Radio since the station started," said Lisa Wolfe, Federal News Radio's program director. "He shared his talent, expertise and vast knowledge of federal employment law generously with our listeners. A man, dedicated to so many efforts, who gave 100 percent to them all. The staff at Federal News Radio is grateful for having known Bill and for having been in his orbit for as long as we were."