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Bar News - January 15, 2014

In Memoriam: Frederic K. Upton

Frederic K. Upton
Frederic K. Upton, a past president of the NHBA and a well-known Concord lawyer, passed away Dec. 2, 2013, just two weeks shy of his 95th birthday.

Born in Bow, NH, Upton grew up at the family home on South Street in Concord and graduated from Concord High School at the age of 16. At Dartmouth College, Upton was named a senior fellow for academic excellence, was captain of the cross-country team and ran track, graduating in 1939.

When Upton later entered Harvard Law School, he remembered fondly the dean of the law school making it known that at Harvard, Upton would have to work, a slight to his beloved Dartmouth education which he never accepted. At Harvard, Upton was an editor of the Law Review.

When World War II broke out, Upton enlisted in the US Navy. He served as an anti-submarine officer on destroyer escorts patrolling the North Atlantic. He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and was awarded two Bronze Stars for helping to sink German U-boats. The war years also brought into his life his wife of 53 years, Jean Thornton Upton, whom Fred married in 1943 and who would return with him to Concord after the war to raise their five children.

Upon returning to Concord, Upton went into law practice with his father, attorney and former US Sen. Robert W. Upton, and his older brother, Richard Upton. One of his most high-profile cases, which affected the whole state, was his successful legal effort to block the federal government from locating a superhighway through Franconia Notch. The legal fight ended in a compromise that resulted in the development of the scenery-preserving Franconia Notch Parkway.

Later in his career, Fred took on many new legal challenges in school, business and banking law. There was no area of the law that escaped his keen intellectual curiosity. Upton was very active with the New Hampshire Bar Association, serving as the first president of the unified bar in 1970. He also served on the NH Supreme Court Judicial Conduct Committee for two decades, 10 years as chair.

When accepting the 2007 Frank Rowe Kenison Award of the NH Bar Foundation, Upton stated: “Our self-esteem as lawyers may depend in the long-run on our disposition or willingness to use our training and talents in some form of public service or for the public good.” Upton was an ardent supporter of public education, serving as chair of the Concord School Board. He sought justice in his professional capacity to improve state funding for local education and argued school funding issues before the NH Supreme Court on several occasions.

He passed on his commitment to community and hard work to his family. No family dinner table was safe from a thorough debate of the issues of the day. Frederic Upton expected much of himself and asked of his family that they always give their best effort and remember those who were less fortunate.

Following retirement, Fred and Jean spent lengthy periods at Waterville Valley, where many grandchildren came to visit. He taught them to fly-fish and to read baseball box scores, showed them where to pick wild blueberries, and took them on bike rides.

Following Jean’s death in 1996, Fred married Beth Shoup Upton, with whom he shared much companionship and love of travel until Beth’s death in 2010. He is survived by his children, Robert W. Upton II and his wife, Lorri; Dr. Mark T. Upton and his wife, Linda; Katherine U. Fulford and her husband, Mark; John S. Upton and his wife, Annie; Evelyn U. Brophy and her husband, Jim; and stepdaughter Diane Best and her companion, Christopher.

A memorial service was to take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11 at St. Paul’s Church in Concord. Friends may make donations to the Frederic K. Upton Justice Fund of the New Hampshire Bar Foundation. Visit

In honor of our colleague, Frederic K. Upton, the NH Bar Association Board of Governors has made a donation to the NH Bar Foundation, 2 Pillsbury Street, Concord, NH 03301.

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