The firm of Dorsey & Whitney is saddened by the loss of our beloved colleague and friend Walter F. Mondale, who passed away on April 19, 2021. A towering figure in American life, Walter “Fritz” Mondale is best known throughout the world for his time as the 42nd Vice President of the United States, serving under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Since 1987, Dorsey & Whitney has been privileged to count Mr. Mondale as a Partner, Senior Counsel, and Retired Partner (interrupted only by Fritz’s return to public service on a few occasions). His imprint on the fabric of the firm cannot be overstated. And while Mr. Mondale has held many other titles in his life in addition to Vice President of the United States and Dorsey Partner (Army veteran, Minnesota Attorney General, U.S. Senator, and Ambassador, to name a few), no title meant more to him than “family man.” His world revolved around his wife Joan, who passed away in 2014, and his children Ted, Eleanor (who passed away in 2011), and William. Mr. Mondale is also survived by his brother Mort, a large extended family, and friends throughout the world. The people of Dorsey & Whitney extend our sympathy and condolences to all who knew Mr. Mondale, to all who admired him, and to all of those he aided in a lifetime of service.
Early Life and Public Service
Walter Frederick Mondale was born in the small town of Ceylon, Minnesota on January 5, 1928. His salt-of-the-earth, small-town roots, and his absolute conviction that all people are created equal, stayed with him his entire life. He served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953 (Corporal). Graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1956, Mr. Mondale became the Minnesota Attorney General in 1960 at age 32. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1964 to 1976, having a profound impact on society-changing legislation such as the Fair Housing Act of 1968. After serving as Vice President from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Mondale practiced law at the Winston & Strawn law firm for a period of time. He became the Democratic Nominee for President of the U.S. in 1984. His choice of Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate was historic – Ms. Ferraro was the first woman to be a major-party national nominee. Mr. Mondale’s commitment to public service would always be a priority in his life, including during his time with Dorsey. After joining Dorsey in 1987, he twice returned to public service for periods of time before rejoining the Firm.
Walter Mondale joined Dorsey & Whitney as a Partner in the Minneapolis office in September 1987. In 1993, he left the Firm for three years, accepting President Bill Clinton’s request to serve as United States Ambassador to Japan. He returned to the Firm as a Partner in December 1996. Other than a brief time running for U.S. Senate in 2002, at the request of Senator Paul Wellstone’s family following Senator Wellstone’s tragic death in an airplane crash, Mr. Mondale spent the rest of his career at Dorsey. In 2004 he became the Firm’s only Senior Counsel, and in late 2015 he took on the status of Retired Partner.
As a Dorsey Partner, Senior Counsel and Retired Partner, Mr. Mondale’s contribution to the Firm and its success over the years has been remarkable. He helped guide Dorsey’s entry into Asia. He helped build and grow many strong client bonds and other relationships across the country and around the world. He provided strategic counsel to six Managing Partners and countless other Firm leaders, and opened doors that helped Dorsey and our clients achieve important legal and business goals. Mr. Mondale helped attract the best and the brightest to join the Firm and was a mentor to countless Dorsey colleagues, including former Partner Amy Klobuchar, who went on to become a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota.
We will dearly miss Mr. Mondale. He embodied the integrity, the commitment to service and the high ethical standards we all aspire to at Dorsey & Whitney. He was also a great friend to the people of Dorsey. To his confidants such as the late Warren Spannaus (the Dorsey Partner who recruited Fritz to the Firm), to his trusted and cherished assistant Lynda Pedersen, and to everyone he encountered in his decades with Dorsey, Mr. Mondale was the embodiment of grace, warmth, humility, collegiality, and abundant humor.
Dorsey has an email address for those wishing to make contact about Mr. Mondale: Mondalememorial dorseyalumni.com
For media inquiries, please contact Kathy Tunheim (ktunheim tunheim.com; 612-803-3193).