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SHERIDAN — Monday, Sheridan will bid farewell to a community pillar. Though Fred Dollison most recently served as a circuit court judge for Wyoming’s 6th Judicial District in Crook and Weston counties and attended high school in Newcastle, he gave many good years to the Sheridan community. Remnants of his legacy live locally in his professional footprint.
Sheridan had a hand in shaping Dollison into the respected professional he became, and Dollison returned the favor by making contributions to the community that reverberate beyond his death.
After serving six years in the U.S. Navy, Dollison attended Sheridan College and graduated with honors. He continued on to the University of Wyoming, ultimately graduating from the school of law with a juris doctorate and secured an entry level attorney job with Badley, Rasmussen and Shoumaker.
It was around that time Dollison met fellow Attorney Mike Shoumaker and began the first of two formal business partnerships and a lifelong friendship.
Shoumaker, who admitted he was surprised to hear of Dollison’s death, described him as industrious, fair and loyal.
“Even though he was my law partner, he was my friend for a long time,” Shoumaker said, indicating he feels a sense of personal loss. “I have to regard it that way.”
Dollison branched out into a solo practice, and again became partners with Shoumaker in 1985. The next year, the duo merged with Virgil Kinnaird and Rene Botten, where the group operated Northern Wyoming Law Associates until 2002.
“He was a good lawyer, a good guy, a good partner and a good friend,” said Virgil Kinnaird, a former partner in law. “He had integrity coming out of his ears.”
Kinnaird said he greatly respected Dollison’s ability as an attorney both before and after their 11-year partnership.
“He knew his cases, he knew his clients, he knew his facts and he knew the law,” said Kinnaird. “You had better be prepared if you were on the other side of him.”
While professional associates speak of Dollison as a competent professional and even a force to be reckoned, equally emphasized is the sentiment that he brought civility to a dispute. He was still aggressive, but in a gentleman’s way.
When Dollison first crossed paths with Botten, she was now the young lawyer fresh out of law school, and he was part of the original team that Botten considers to be her first mentors.
“He took me in,” Botten said. “Mike and Fred basically mentored me for 10 years to teach me how to be a lawyer.”
Botten said while some firms don’t capitalize on teaching opportunities for new law school graduates, Dollison let her co-chair cases with him to learn the ropes.
“He had a mentality that the law deserves respect,” Botten remembered.
Dollison earned his robe in 2002 when he was appointed as a circuit court judge in Crook County, and the next year, he was appointed the circuit court judge of Weston County.
The appointment was an emotional one for Dollison, who had wanted to serve on the bench for years. Friends and associates agree the job did not change the man Dollison was inside.
“He was very patient on the bench. That’s not something all judges do,” Shoumaker said, explaining that when some attorneys become judges, they sometimes take on an air of superiority or forget, over time, some realities of representing a client.
“Sometimes, when a person becomes a judge, the lawyer leaves them,” he said, indicating he had great respect for his colleague in that he remained compassionate throughout his tenure on the bench.
“He was always very decent to people,” Shoumaker said, indicating he had noticed Dollison’s years of devotion not only to his career, but also his family.
“The highest compliment I can pay him is when I appeared in front of him, he didn’t treat me any differently,,” Kinnaird said, adding that Dollison might have even been a bit more strict with his former partner than with other attorneys. “When he was on the bench, he had no friends.”
Kinnaird characterized Dollison as a devout Christian and a great dad and a “Dang good judge.”
Dollison served as an attorney for Sheridan County School District #2 for nine years and was nominated as a Sheridan College distinguished alumni in 2012.
Dollison died of a heart attack in his Sundance Home Monday. He was 65.
A memorial service for Dollison will be at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.