Paul Chamberlain, last in family’s 122-year line of Auburn lawyers, dead at 87

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Paul Chamberlain, last in the line of a family of lawyers practicing in Auburn since 1888, has died at 87. Chamberlain, a lifelong Auburn resident who had practiced law in the city since 1951, died at home April 27, his son, Paul Chamberlain Jr. said Thursday. The lawyering Chamberlain family’s Placer County roots stretched back to 1850, when Thomas Lee Chamberlain and his brother, Louis, established Chamberlain Ranch, north of Lincoln. Paul Chamberlain’s grandfather, Lee, hung out the family’s first shingle as an attorney in Auburn in 1888 – the same year Auburn incorporated as a city. Lee Chamberlain had three sons who became prominent lawyers. One of them – T.L. “Lou” Chamberlain – practiced law in Auburn from 1913 until his death in 1975. T.L. Chamberlain’s two sons – Paul and Ted – carried on the family tradition as practicing attorneys in Auburn. Paul Sr. was predeceased by his brother. Paul Jr. said the longevity of the Chamberlain firm made it the oldest ongoing law firm in the state. Until a recent stroke, the octogenarian attorney would work daily at his Downtown Auburn office. Paul Sr.’s activities away from the office included a term as president of the Placer County Bar Association, work with the Boy Scouts, several years as chairman of the Placer County Law Library board, and leadership in the Rotary Club of Auburn. Paul Jr. remembered his father as a man who loved swimming, boating on Lake Tahoe, the mountains and automobiles. “My mom told me that in their first 17 years of marriage, they had 21 different cars,” he said. During World War II, Chamberlain served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, flying multi-engine aircraft “over the hump” between Cairo and Burma. He was a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. At Berkeley, he was on the crew rowing team. “He was a man of few words and many deeds,” Paul Jr. said. “What came through from people he knew was that he was a good listener.” Ron Chiaratti Sr., a longtime Auburn resident and friend of Chamberlain, said the veteran attorney only stopped his daily work schedule after he broke a hip. “He had a strong work ethic,” Chiaratti said. “And he’d do anything for you – a really nice guy.” A private funeral service and burial was held last Monday. A memorial service is being planned for June 5 in the Tahoe Club. Besides his son, who lives in La Canada, he is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nonda, and a daughter, Suzanne Leonoudakis of San Rafael. The law office of Chamberlain, Chamberlain & Baldo in the Bank of California building on Lincoln Way, will remain open.