Paul H. Tobias Tribute

Walt Auvil

I met Paul when I attended the NELA Annual Convention at Semiahmoo, near Bellingham, Washington.  I have no recollection of how I learned about the event, but my wife Michele Rusen and I decided to leave our then infant son Kirk Auvil with Michele’s mother and fly across the country to allow me to attend.  That infant – slightly altered in form – is pictured in the attached photo with Paul and me at the 2017 NELA Annual Convention in San Antonio.

I don’t remember specifics of the long ago Semiahmoo meeting.  I do remember flying home to West Virginia poring over the printed materials (that’s how we did things back then kids – a thousand trees died for our sins) and thinking, maybe I could make a living doing something that I feel good about – helping workers.  I knew very little about how to do that at the time, but Paul and every other NELA member I met – whether in person or online through the then Barry Roseman curated NELA listserv – celebrated my victories and consoled me in my disasters.  Thirty years later I’m thankful for Paul and many other NELA members who unselfishly shared with me and showed me that there was a path in the practice of Iaw which I hadn’t seen before.

When we look back at our life’s work, what more can we hope for than to have lifted our fellow travelers up in their long, rough journey toward justice?  Paul did that.  And like Johnny Appleseed, planting little saplings all over this country, he trusted that we would try and follow his lead and spread those seeds in turn.  I would like to think that here in West Virginia our WVELA affiliate has honored Paul’s legacy of generosity and mutual aid in our own small way.  I hope so, because Paul lived the wisdom Albert Camus wrote: “I shall tell you a great secret, my friend.  Do not wait for the last judgement, it takes place every day.”