William J. Taylor, noted Philadelphia trial lawyer

William J. Taylor, 87, a longtime Philadelphia litigator who founded his own law firm after a career at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Center City, died June 16.

Mr. Taylor spent his entire career as a trial lawyer and rose to vice chair of litigation at Morgan Lewis before founding his own firm, Taylor & Taylor. His clients included many of the nation’s major railroads, among them Pennsylvania Railroad, Conrail, and Southern Pacific. After he left Morgan Lewis, Mr. Taylor represented Sun Oil in legal disputes around the country.

William J. Taylor

“My father was certainly the most consistent person that I have ever met in terms of his incredibly hard work as a lawyer, how he raised his children, and how he practiced his faith,” said his son Matthew, who is also a lawyer.

Matthew Taylor said his father was a deeply religious man whose faith grew out of early challenges. When William Taylor was 9, during the Depression, his father died and the Roman Catholic Church became a bulwark. As an adult, he was an active parishioner of St. Denis Roman Catholic Church in Havertown, where he was a lector and daily communicant.

Colleagues remembered Mr. Taylor as a skilled courtroom lawyer who followed his instincts and favored decisive action.

Jami McKeon, chair of Morgan Lewis, described him as “one of the great trial lawyers of Philadelphia.”

Thomas A. Masterson Jr., who joined Taylor & Taylor as a young lawyer, recalled how Mr. Taylor employed swift action on behalf of his client Sun Oil to turn the tables on an Oklahoma bank that had refused to honor a credit agreement. At the outset of the dispute, Mr. Taylor dispensed with the usual protocol of document requests and interrogatories and went straight to taking depositions of bank employees. The tactic proved decisive at trial, Masterson said.

“Bill’s instincts told him that we should get on a plane and go to Oklahoma and take depositions of the bank employees first,” Masterson said. “So that is what we did.”

Mr. Taylor, a longtime resident of Ardmore and more recently Wynnewood, was born Dec. 12, 1929, in Drexel Hill, the fifth child of Walter and Marie Taylor. The family soon moved to Ventnor. He graduated from Holy Spirit High School in Atlantic City in 1948 and enrolled at St. Joseph’s University, but his studies there were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army in 1951 and sent to Korea, where he saw combat. For his service there, he was awarded an infantry combat badge.

After the war, Mr. Taylor resumed his studies at St. Joseph’s and began his legal career as a first-year associate at Morgan Lewis after graduating from Georgetown University Law School in 1957. He became a partner in 1964.

In 1982, Taylor left Morgan Lewis to start Taylor & Taylor with his eldest son, William Jr. Matthew. His youngest son, now vice chair of the Duane Morris law firm, joined his father’s firm in 1991.

Mr. Taylor is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ann Theresa; six children, William, Timothy, Marguerite Dolan, Ann Marie McShea, Jeanne Vinovich, and Matthew; 17 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A viewing will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at Stretch Funeral Home,  236 E. Eagle Rd., Havertown, and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 23, at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church, 2401 St. Denis Lane, Havertown, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.