New Zealand Law Society - John Fox, 1939 – 1991

John Fox, 1939 – 1991

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Prominent Christchurch solicitor John Fox died recently, aged 52. John Fox was one of the leading members of the legal profession in Christchurch. Quiet and very definite, he developed his opinions meticulously and with total sincerity.

He attended Opawa Primary School and then Waitaki Boys’ High School as a boarder from 1953 to 1958. Waitaki had a profound influence on John’s life. He loved his school and rose to be Head Prefect, and Head of the Boarding House in 1958. In later years he gave great support to the Christchurch Branch of Waitaki Old Boys’ Association. He was made an Honorary Life Member of that Association in 1988, and became a Governor of Waitaki Boys’ High School Foundation this year.

He completed a double degree, BA, LLB, at Canterbury University, then an LLM in Law in 1965. His academic enthusiasm continued throughout a distinguished legal career. There was nothing he liked more than an academic challenge. No adversary daunted him. If there was right and reason on his side (sometimes with just a touch of low cunning), he was only too happy to engage in a battle of legal logic – especially if he was aiming a David’s slingshot against that Goliath, the Commissioner of Inland Revenue!

His reputation for careful thought led to his being a member of the Contracts and Commercial Law Reform Committee from 1974 to 1985 and to his lecturing in International Law in 1965 and Taxation 1969-71 and 1982.

His partners speak of a man with an over-riding sense of fairness, with a philosophical attitude that allowed him to get others to compromise, and to work as a team; a good listener, analytical of approach, but able to relate well to any client or staff member.

He had worked in turn for John Miller as a Law Clerk; Robinson & Robinson as a Solicitor Clerk in Ashburton; White Son and Burgess as a Solicitor Clerk; and then as a partner in the firm that was known as White Burgess & Fox from 1966 to 1975, and as White Fox & Jones from 1975 on. Although he refused to see himself as the senior partner, it was his reputation for balanced, practical determination that did much to engender respect for him and the firm. He was a fine lawyer who will be missed by the profession.

His academic enthusiasm didn’t stop at Law. In the last three years he embarked on all three stages of Art History, passing the Stage I and II papers with high grades.

He was also a keen sportsman. A dedicated cricketer, being in the First XI at Waitaki from 1954 to 1958 and captain in his last year, he continued to 2nd Grade, paying for Burnside West University and Tech Old Boys 1959-64, senior cricket at Ashburton in 1965 and reverted to 2nd then 4th Grade from 1966 to 1987 on. He was consistently one of the top runscorers for the Lancaster Park President’s B team. When the Law Society Common Law team was short of players, John, who had appeared in Court once that year, was asked to play, and did so for many subsequent years. He was Solicitor to the New Zealand Cricket Council over many years.

John played hockey for the Waitaki 1st XI from 1953 to 1957 and went back to that code playing for Selwyn in the President’s Grade from 1987 to this year. He played rugby for Timpson’s Tigers and in law student teams. He was no mean golfer, boasting a lowest handicap of 9. He ran in various marathons. John loved his sport: the challenge, the conviviality, the post-match analysis. It was an academic’s approach but he was a fine sportsman who will be missed by his team-mates.

John married Allison Carthy in 1966. Their children are Michael, Richard and Gillian. He was a fine supportive family man, who will be sadly missed by his family.

Some men have the gift of accomplishing a great deal in a limited time – far more than many achieve in a much greater span. Always, what are left in the end, and what count as the tests of real success, are the memories and the reputation.

His “brothers in Law” will retain very fond memories of a fine lawyer, a fine sportsman, and a fine friend – a sincere gentleman, with a very fine reputation.

This obituary was published in LawTalk 363, December 1991 at page 34.

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