Former South Lake Tahoe city attorney gets fond farewell at Friday memorial |

Former South Lake Tahoe city attorney gets fond farewell at Friday memorial

Adam Jensen
Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneA portrait of former El Dorado County Superior Court Commissioner Melvin Beverly is displayed at a memorial on Friday afternoon. The picture will be permanently displayed at the main court house in Placerville.

Dozens of friends, family members and colleagues turned out to remember former El Dorado County Superior Court Commissioner and South Lake Tahoe attorney, Melvin “Mel” Beverly, on Friday afternoon.

Beverly died of a heart attack Oct. 29. He was 84 years old.

Friday’s memorial was held in the upstairs courtroom at El Dorado County Superior Court in South Lake Tahoe as a special session of the court.

Eleven past and present El Dorado County Superior Court judges attended the memorial, wearing black robes and seated in front of the bench where Judge Suzanne Kingsbury currently serves.

A true public servant, Beverly was described by attendees at the memorial as equally reliable, supportive, respectful and inspiring.

Retired El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Patrick Riley described Beverly as a mentor, teacher and friend.

“Most of all he taught me by example,” Riley said. “He lived being an ethical professional.”

Riley’s friendship with Beverly began at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, where Beverly graduated from in 1952 after fighting in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army between 1943 and 1946 and graduating from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949, Riley said.

From there, Beverly began a private practice in Placerville, Calif. before moving to South Lake Tahoe in the early 1960s, Riley said.

Beverly served as an attorney for several local agencies, before becoming the city’s first attorney in 1965.

In 1989, Beverly was appointed to serve as a El Dorado County Superior Court Child Support Commissioner, a position he held until his retirement in 2000.

Beverly was also a motivating force behind the construction of Barton Memorial Hospital and instrumental in establishing the El Dorado CASA program, which trains volunteers to advocate for abused children and at-risk youth, Riley said.

Despite the long list of accomplishments noted at Friday’s memorial, it was the recounting of some of the more humorous moments in Beverly’s life – which caused raucous laughter from the audience in the packed court room at several points during the memorial – that stood out the most.

Some of the humor revolved around Beverly’s love of cigars.

“I’d catch him smoking in his chambers every once in a while,” said retired El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Terry Finney. “He had three air purifiers in there!”

Then there was also the time Beverly found himself without the necessary number of jurors to proceed with a criminal trial and instructed a court bailiff to hit the streets to find another juror, said Kingsbury.

The bailiff returned with an elderly women who was running errands at a local post office, despite the women’s protests, Kingsbury said.

While California law allows jurors to be pulled from the streets in such situations, the woman was obviously unhappy about her impromptu jury duty selection, Kingsbury said.

“In my years as a judge I had her show up a couple of times on jury duty and, not surprisingly, she voiced her unhappiness with that event,” Kingsbury said.

But Beverly’s move did leave a lasting legacy, Kingsbury said.

“No one else complained about jury duty when that women showed up,” Kingsbury said, to widespread laughter in the audience.

Beverly’s wife, Evelyn Beverly was seated in the jury box with other family members during the memorial and began laughing at the recollection of the event even before Kingsbury finished her account.

It was just one of many stories told on Friday about a South Shore man who will be remembered fondly by those who knew him.

“I think the highest compliment you can say about anybody is that they were your friend,” Finney said. “And Mel was my friend and I’ll never forget him.”

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