Saturday, September 14, 2002

Obituary: Bill Backs, lawyer, golfer

Boyhood job put him on course for job with VA

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KENWOOD — A boyhood obsession with golf paved the way to Bill Backs' career as a lawyer.

        Mr. Backs, 85, died Sept. 5 at Manor Care Nursing Home in Kenwood after a long career with the Department of Veterans Affairs and in private practice.

        But his beginnings were inauspicious.

        He was born William Belmont Backs in Bond Hill in 1917 and grew up near the Maketewah Country Club.

        Early on he fell in love with golf and began working as a caddie at the club when he was 10. That gave him the opportunity to spend hours on the course, studying the game.

        His father died during the Great Depression and he had to drop out of high school to support his mother. When he was 19, he was hired as assistant golf pro at the new Kenwood Country Club, where he met the late Elmer Hunsicker, former Hamilton County Clerk of Courts.

        Mr. Hunsicker took an interest in Mr. Backs and took him to his office at the courthouse, introducing him to the practice of law.

        Mr. Backs made becoming a lawyer his goal. He returned to high school and took a job working more than 40 hours a week at a gas station in Sayler Park so he could pay tuition to attend Xavier University — also full time.

        While attending Chase Law School at the YMCA, he was the court constable for the late Judge Fred Hoffman. That job helped him later in his career by enabling him to get to know local lawyers and politicians.

        Mr. Backs was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1941.

        “It shows what, when someone makes up their mind, they can accomplish,” said his friend, Martha Hildenbrand Perin of Madeira.

        The United States entered World War II that year and Mr. Backs served as a 1st lieutenant with the Army in the European Theater.

        “He came home on a hospital ship with pneumonia,” said Mrs. Perin. “It was from sleeping on the ground.”

        He worked for the VA until his office was moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Thereafter, he was in private practice, doing right-of-way work for CG&E. He gradually wound down his practice, retiring when he was close to 80.

        “In his later years, he used to go to the courthouse — both Federal and Common Pleas — and listened to the cases and kept up with the law,” said Mrs. Perin.

        Mr. Backs never left behind his first love — golf. He was a scratch golfer and winner of many trophies.

        He was a member of the Kenwood Country Club.

        Louise Nuxhall Backs, his wife of 36 years, died in January.

        Mr. Backs has no survivors. He left his estate to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        Services have been held. Burial was at Oak Hill Cemetery.

        Memorials: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati 45229-3039.


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