William Francis Porter, Jr.

William Francis Porter, Jr.

Died January 15, 1999

Known by some as Duke, William won the Yale Scientific Essay Contest in 1964, held a Yale National Scholarship and the Yale Alumni Association of Rhode Island Scholarship and lived in Timothy Dwight. He prepared for Yale at Portsmouth Priory School in Portsmouth, RI, and graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering.

William was awarded an LL.B. by Harvard Law School in 1968. He entered the private practice of patent law in Boston, while serving in the Army Reserve, and later pursued private and corporate practice of patent law in Park Ridge, IL, Rochester, NY, San Antonio, TX, and Nashua, NH, before becoming patent counsel at CalComp Techologies in Anaheim, CA, a manufacturer of thermal plotters and digitizers.

In the class book and directory for our 25th reunion in 1990, William observed: “ I have been reasonably successful professionally and have perhaps used my professional life as a reason to avoid developing a full personal life. At times, I wish that I had placed more emphasis on marriage and raising a family, with all of the attendant joys and challenges. My one marriage occurred later than most (age 35) and lasted for six short years with no living children…I have become much more realistic about my own limitations in recent years and, although I still have dreams and goals, have become significantly more content with my circumstances and surroundings.”

William died unexpectedly Friday night, January 15, 1999 after becoming ill at work, the same month as CalComp shut down its operations and transferred its product lines to other companies. He had worked there since 1987. His obituary notes Duke was a long-time member of Friends of Billy W., apparently a reference to William Griffith Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

John Rosholt remembers:
Remembering The Duke – Wm. F. Porter, Jr. Bill was my roommate for four years, a friend to me and to everyone he met. For some reason having to do with a then popular doo-wop song we called him Duke. That sobriquet could not have been more inappropriate; he was the antithesis of royalty. Duke was, in fact, an open, jovial, unassuming working class Irishman – and darn proud of it. Yale and Harvard Law did little to smooth his rough edges.

He was also loquacious, sometimes to a fault, and had a vivid memory, particularly for amusing incidents, which he delighted in embellishing and recounting at length, as my daughter discovered soon after she entered Yale. One night Duke, who was passing through New Haven, took her out for dinner. His accounts of our undergraduate high-jinx shattered in two hours her image of my probity, an image I had spent almost two decades fabricating.

Brilliant and industrious, Duke seemed destined for great things. But he never enjoyed the life he deserved. He won a war against alcoholism but acquired several battle scars in the process – several lost jobs, a failed marriage, obesity, etc. He said the low point came when his cat walked out of his apartment and took up residence with a neighbor, refusing to return.

A lesser man might have given up but not Duke. He had achieved sobriety and was successfully rebuilding his life when he suffered a heart attack at 55. That wasn’t fair. A few more years and Duke would have enjoyed the life he deserved.

John Shank remembers:
Duke….. a brilliant guy and dear true friend. Yet he was beset by demons, mostly drinking and smoking. He was able to defeat the drinking, but smoking took him much too early. I miss him.

Samuel Kilbourn remembers:
Bill Porter was my classmate at Portsmouth Priory School and 2nd to my 3rd class rank. A day hop whose father worked at the nearby Navel Base he was always pleasant but kept mostly to himself. I saw him briefly freshman year then not again until our 25th at which I did not recognize him. He described himself then as quite unhealthy, failing to take care of himself, and seemed to expect an early end. A 3-piece suited, watch fobbed scholar, professing at a school somewhere out west is what I remember. It was good to speak with him, brief as it was. Bill was brilliant. It appeared he neglected the physical side of life.