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Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic
John Bouma, a prominent Valley attorney who guided the expansion of the Snell & Wilmer law firm and helped found a legal group to aid the poor, died Tuesday night when he was struck by two vehicles on a Phoenix street.
Bouma, 82, died at approximately 9:08 p.m. after being hit near the 7500 block of North Seventh Street, according to the Phoenix Police Department.
The accident involved a 2017 Toyota Tacoma driven by a 39-year-old man and a 2017 Jeep Patriot driven by 23-year-old woman. Neither driver has been identified by police.
Accident investigators determined that Bouma walked into the street, possibly to recover an unknown item, when he was struck by the northbound Toyota. The collision propelled him into the southbound lanes, where he was struck by the Jeep, police said.
Bouma was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Neither impairment nor speed appear to be factors in the accident, police said. An investigation is ongoing. Neither driver was injured.
Bouma spent years cultivating business, personal and philanthropic ties in the state.
"John and I have been friends for over 40 years, first as fellow lawyers then as a political supporter of mine," said former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in an email to The Arizona Republic.
Kyl and his wife often socialized with Bouma and his wife, Bonnie. The Boumas had four children.
Kyl described Bouma as an accomplished lawyer; a leader in the State Bar, where Bouma served as president for one year; and a mentor to many Arizonans. He also enjoyed hunting and was active in various community organizations, Kyl said.
"He was a good companion, and I will miss him greatly," Kyl said.
Bouma worked on many cases that helped define Arizona, such as representing the Arizona Public Service Co. utility against challenges to power plant construction.
He also represented three Arizona governors, including Jan Brewer after she signed Senate Bill 1070. The controversial anti-immigration law was gradually watered down by various court rulings upholding immigration enforcement as the responsibility of the federal government.
Bouma cited those among his most noteworthy legal efforts in a 2014 interview with Of Counsel, a legal publication.
Brewer described Bouma as an extraordinary person and excellent attorney. She worked with him for several years as legal challenges to SB 1070 dragged on.
"He was more than a great lawyer; he also had a big heart," Brewer told The Republic. "His impact on the legal profession will never be forgotten."
Bouma had an extensive legal career and served 32 years as the head of Snell & Wilmer, growing the law firm from a single office in Phoenix with fewer than 100 attorneys to 12 office locations throughout the western U.S. and Mexico with more than 450 attorneys, said Matthew Feeney, who succeeded Bouma as chairman in 2015.
"John Bouma made this into a firm of great lawyers and great people," Feeney said. "His vision was to move Snell & Wilmer (beyond) Phoenix."
Bouma remained active as a partner at Snell & Wilmer and served on an important compensation committee within the company.
He even dropped by the Phoenix office Monday, when it was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and happened to answer a call from a client.
"He said, 'Boy, was that fun — doing a bit of legal research,'" Feeney related.
Bouma focused on complicated commercial litigation and was an excellent trial lawyer, Feeney added.
Bouma grew up in a small town in Iowa where his father ran a movie theater. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1958 and earned his legal degree from the same school in 1960, after serving as editor in chief of the Iowa Law Review.
He followed that with service in the Army before entering the legal profession, ultimately becoming chairman of Snell & Wilmer in 1983 and serving in that capacity until 2015.
He first moved to Arizona when he was sent to Fort Huachuca as part of the Judge Advocate General's or JAG Corps, he told Of Counsel.
Feeney also said Bouma had great compassion and was dedicated to helping the community. For example, he co-founded the Equal Justice Foundation, which provides legal help for people lacking money to hire an attorney.
Bouma also was involved with an array of community groups including the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Valley of the Sun United Way, Mountain Legal Aid, the Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona Opera.
"John personified the phrase 'community leader,' having been active in numerous civic organizations for decades," said Neil Giuliano, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, of which Bouma was a member for 21 years.
"His tremendous commitment to service and great sense of humor will be missed."