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David K. Floyd, 85, pioneer in environmental law cases

July 11, 1932 – Feb. 1, 2018

David K. Floyd, an attorney regarded as a pioneer in the field of environmental law, was involved in pollution cases from their earliest days.

“He represented Bethlehem Steel back in the '60s during the evolution of the Clean Air Act,” said Morgan G. Graham, a partner at the Buffalo firm of Phillips Lytle LLP who Mr. Floyd hired to work with him on Love Canal litigation. “That really kicked things off for environmental law and the firm.

“From his experience with Bethlehem Steel and doing air work, he became known for that,” Graham added. “He was unique because he was there in the beginning.”

Mr. Floyd went on to represent Houdaille Industries and Carborundum Corp. in pollution lawsuits. In the lengthy legal actions stemming from Love Canal throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he was the principal attorney in Western New York for Hooker Chemical and its successor, Occidental Chemical. It was the largest single piece of litigation in the firm's history.

He died Feb. 1 in the Health Care Facility at Fox Run, Orchard Park. He was 85.

“David had the trust, respect and admiration of his colleagues, adversaries and the judiciary, which made him so effective as a lawyer,” Graham said. “He was always a straight shooter and trustworthy. The lawyers at the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) who negotiated with him knew he was a fellow who would find a resolution.”

Born in Buffalo, David Kenneth Floyd was the son of a teacher. He attended school in Orchard Park, Alfred and Schuylerville before completing his junior and senior years of high school in Farmingdale, L.I.

He attended Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., then an all-male school, where he was a member of Alpha Chi Rho fraternity and Air Force ROTC. He played for one year on the football and baseball teams and three seasons on the basketball team.

While he was at Trinity, he kept in touch with his high school sweetheart from Schuylerville, Anne Louise Zoller, who was studying at Union University School of Nursing in Albany to become a registered nurse.

“We wrote,” she said. “I worked in the Catskills for two summers, and he and his brother visited me. And I went once or twice a year to some big weekend at Trinity.”

A week after he received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1954, they were married.

He then served for three years in the Air Force stateside in management analysis, attaining the rank of first lieutenant.

“While he was in the service, he was debating whether to go for business or for law,” his wife said, “and he decided on law.”

Enrolling in the University of Chicago Law School, he was a managing editor of the Law Review and graduated with honors in 1960 with a Juris Doctor degree. He was a member of the Order of Coif, an honor society for law school graduates.

Mr. Floyd returned to Buffalo in 1960 to join what was then Phillips, Lytle, Hitchcock, Blaine & Huber, became a partner in 1965 and later was a managing partner. Prior to his environmental cases, he worked on tax matters and litigation. Described by Graham as “a pillar of Phillips Lytle,” he retired in 1994.

A fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, he was listed in “Best Lawyers in America.”

He served as Aurora Town Justice from 1965 to 1996.

He was a member of the board of directors of the Western New York Land Conservancy for six years, then became a director emeritus. He assisted with open space planning in the Town of Aurora.

He also was active with Habitat for Humanity for more than 25 years, beginning as a volunteer construction worker.

“Originally, he would be a once-a-month volunteer with a church group,” his wife said, “but once he retired, eventually he was head of construction for new builds. Then he took care of getting the real estate for Habitat, which involved a lot of work. When a house was offered, he would go look at the house and the neighborhood to see if it was where a Habitat family wanted to live.”

He remained active with Habitat until about a year ago.

An avid golfer, tennis player and duplicate bridge player, he also enjoyed traveling, reading and stamp collecting.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Susan, Ellen Svenson and Sarah; two sons, Kenneth and Daniel; a brother, John; and seven grandchildren.

A celebration of his life was held at 11 a.m. Saturday in East Aurora Presbyterian Church, 9 Paine Ave., East Aurora.

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