William Tatem “Bill” Quillen, age 81, died suddenly and peacefully on August 19. In addition to his parents, Robert James Quillen, Sr. and Gladys Tatem Quillen, he was predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Marcia Everhart Stirling Quillen; his brother, Robert James Quillen, Jr.; and his nephew, Robert Irvine Quillen.
Bill is survived by his daughters, Carol Everhart Quillen (George McLendon) and Tracey Tatem Quillen (John Carney); his grandchildren, Caitlin Everhart Lohrenz, Samuel Quillen Carney, and James Tatem Stirling Carney; his sister-in-law, Barbara Flinn Quillen; his niece Anne Quillen Donecker and her family; and his Tatem and Quillen cousins.
Bill grew up in New Castle, where his father and uncle, and then his brother, ran Quillen Brothers Ford from 1926 through 1982. For Bill, New Castle was essential to his identity, and his father and brother remained his heroes and role models of “usefulness” throughout his life. He was a lifelong member of and adulthood leader in the New Castle Presbyterian Church.
Bill graduated from Wilmington Friends School in 1952, and considered his Quaker education and the friends it brought him another foundation of his identity. He was legendary for keeping his classmates in touch with him and with each other, and greatly enjoyed their recent tradition of annual reunions in Florida.
He graduated from his equally beloved Williams College in 1956, received his LL.B. from Harvard Law School, and an LL.M. from The University of Virginia School of Law. He was grateful to Marcia’s parents for sharing “The Pink House” in Ocean City, NJ, so generously with him, and he enjoyed his time there continuing through this summer.
Bill was a devoted fan and, with his family, longtime season ticket holder of University of Delaware football. He yelled at the radio and television through countless Phillies and Eagles games. He was a fan of the original Blue Rocks and enjoyed enlightening all who might not know about the greatness of Robin Roberts. Bill was always among the most loyal—and loudest—Friends School sports fans; as he said, “I fell in love with the School in seventh grade when someone handed me a football uniform.” He also played basketball and baseball, and received the School’s “Spirit Cup,” not for the best athlete but for best representing the spirit of Friends athletics.
He cheered for the Quakers, including his daughters and grandsons, every season of his life, and made great friends among his bleacher buddies. He was especially proud to have had a chance to nominate Coach Bob “T” Tattersall, with whom he rehashed every football game, for the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame. He also traveled to Texas to see his granddaughter compete in cross country and track, and was proud to attend her 2015 graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In recent years, since his daughter, Carol, became President of Davidson College, he added the Wildcats and then, via Steph Curry, the Warriors, to his athletic devotions, and was grateful for the welcome to the Davidson family he and Marcia received from Coach Bob McKillop and his players.
A Roosevelt-Kennedy Democrat, Bill had a passion for politics and history, and considered staying informed to be both an obligation and a joy of citizenship. He devoured news, often reading aloud to whoever was in earshot from the paper and non-fiction books. He was a genuinely public-minded and -spirited person; it was instinctive to him to weigh the common good first.
He had one political campaign of his own, running for Governor in 1984, and was involved in many more, including the careers of Vice President Joe Biden and of his son-in-law, Congressman John Carney.
Bill was more than once accused of not being able to hold a job, with the recognition that he always had a good one. He started as an officer in the JAG Corps of the United States Air Force and then served as a law clerk to Judge Charles Terry, before working briefly but gratefully as an Associate at Richards, Layton & Finger. He became counsel to then-Governor Terry, who appointed Bill, at just 31 years old, to the Delaware State Superior Court.
Bill thereafter was known to most Delawareans as “Judge.” He served on each of the State’s major courts, including as Chancellor and as a Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. He had what he modestly described as an 11-year “frolic” in the private and political sectors—working in the Trust Department at Wilmington Trust; serving proudly, and again most gratefully, as a Partner at Potter, Anderson & Corroon; running for Governor; serving as General Counsel of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, then the world’s largest charity; and teaching Ethics and Constitutional Law, and one course for daring undergraduates, at Widener University.
He returned to full-time public service when he was appointed as Delaware’s Secretary of State by then-Governor Tom Carper, who completed the professional circle by appointing Bill once again as a Judge on Delaware’s Superior Court. After what many thought was his retirement, Bill found new valued colleagues, formal and informal, at Drinker Biddle & Reath and at the firm then known as Seitz, Ross, Aronstam & Moritz.
At the time of his death, Bill was working on a biography of Collins J. Seitz with his friend and Judge Seitz’s son, Supreme Court Justice, New Castle resident, and leader in the New Castle Presbyterian Church, C.J. Seitz.
Along the way, there were numerous influential opinions, incorporations, overseas trips on behalf of the State; visits to leading academic medical centers across the country to help chart the future of medical research; service to the World Affairs Council and the legal community; the planning and building of a $75 million headquarters for Hughes, the planning of the Delaware Archives; a book about the Delaware Court of Chancery and many articles; the preservation and celebration of the history of New Castle; awards, recognitions, and terms of charitable and corporate board service. Of special value to Bill were the Order of the First State, the Delaware Heritage Award, and the Friends School Alumni of the Year Award.
But what Bill was most grateful for were the mentors and colleagues who gave him opportunities to contribute, and the clerks, students, and young lawyers to whom he was able to offer guidance; as he said, “anyone younger than I am is young.” Bill’s family would like to thank all of you, past and present. Leaving out many who deserve to be mentioned, we especially thank Vice President Joe Biden; Governors Terry, Tribbitt, du Pont, Castle, and Carper, who made Bill’s judicial appointments, and the members of the Senate who supported them; Irv Shapiro, Charlie Crompton, Bruce Stargatt, Jim Gilliam, Rod Ward, Jack Porter, Fred Pardee, and the rest of the Class of 1952; the Presidents and Law Deans of Widener University; the partners of Potter Anderson, Drinker Biddle, and Seitz Ross; Ned Davis, Jim McGinnis, Darrell Baker, Lin Herndon, Jim Soles, Frank Biondi, Henry Topel, Vince Bifferato, Frank Balotti, Norman Veasey, Jean Ashe Crompton, and all of his law clerks and “younger” friends who continued to inspire him as a lifelong learner and leader.
We are also comforted that Bill and his beloved Marcia are together again, grateful that he was blessed to live and die as he would have chosen and for his personal as well as professional legacy,
Family and friends are invited to a memorial service at New Castle Presbyterian Church on Saturday, August 27, at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions in Bill’s memory to either New Castle Presbyterian Church (23 East Second Street, New Castle DE 19720) or Wilmington Friends School (101 School Road, Wilmington DE 19803).
For online condolences please visit; Gebhartfuneralhomes.com
Published in The News Journal from Aug. 22 to Aug. 26, 2016