David Bengtson Downing
October 31, 1929 – November 19, 2019
David Bengtson Downing, 90, passed peacefully Tuesday in memory care in Lincoln, surrounded by his kids. Practiced law in Superior, NE 1959-2014.
Downing was a trial lawyer. He loved the courtroom and thrived in the adversarial climate. He practiced civil and criminal law. He defended clients as a court appointed attorney, including a few murder cases. He was a strong believer in the U.S. constitution, civil liberties, and the right to a fair trial. He was paid whatever clients could afford, including in-kind payment of lawn mowing, baby-sitting, repairs, etc. He never gave less than his best to any client and judging from the remarks of those present at his retirement party, his best was among the best in the state.
Vicki Johnson, presiding district court judge, perhaps summed it up best when she noted that it was her fervent wish that every attorney who appeared before her exhibited the same decorum, dignity and knowledge of the law which Mr. Downing displayed when he was in the courtroom. Orville Coady, retired district court judge noted that under Downing’s dignified demeanor was a razor sharp mind and a steel sense of determination.
Downing was born in Lincoln but moved to Superior with his family in 1941. His father Robert was an attorney who was chief counsel at the State banking office. When a shift in political winds at the State level saw a change in administrations, he lost his position. He was friendly with some Superior businessmen and listened to them when they suggested he relocate to the city to practice law. He purchased the law practice of Frank Stubbs, who was retiring and hung out his figurative shingle.
David attended Superior High School and graduated with the Class of 1947. He enrolled at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Met and fell head over heels for Nancy Louise Jensen of Fremont, who dropped out to put him through school. They married in 1951. Admitted to the UNL College of Law, received his J.D. degree in 1953. He had been a member of the Reserve Officers Training Program at UNL and went on active duty with the United States Army. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He applied for and was accepted into the Judge Advocates General’s (JAG) corps. Upon completion of his training at the University of Virginia, he was promoted to first lieutenant. He served most of his time at the United States Army disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He represented individuals on the defense and served as a prosecutor. Upon his separation from the army in 1956, Downing moved to Denver where he passed the Colorado bar exam and was admitted to practice. In 1959 he joined his father Robert H. in practice in Superior and established the Downing & Downing law firm.
Downing was the only attorney to serve as president of all three major legal organizations in Nebraska: Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, 1973-74; Nebraska State Bar Association, 1987-88; and Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, 1993. He was also an admiral in the Navy with the great State of Nebraska. His one foray into seeking public office was unsuccessful when he was the democratic nominee for attorney general in 1964. Campaigning with incumbent democratic governor Frank Morrison on the coattails of LBJ, the last democrat to win the presidential vote in Nebraska, he was soundly defeated by the republican incumbent in 92 counties, but proudly won his home Nuckolls county.
He has served as a mentor and inspiration to generations of Nebraska attorneys. He has been in partnership with Randall Alexander since 1981. The Downing building is the former Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph building in Superior.
One of his proudest accomplishments did not take place in a court of law but rather in the fields near Broken Bow. In 1971, then Governor JJ Exon invited Downing to be his guest at the Nebraska one box pheasant hunt. The Nebraska team roster was full, but Exon, in a gesture of altruistic generosity, offered Downing to the Oklahoma team which was short a hunter. Downing proceeded to lead the Oklahoma team to victory which earned him an honorary colonelcy in the Oklahoma Governor’s office. Governor Exon quipped, “The Oklahoma victory was all arranged ahead of time for Oklahoma to win. We even gave them a hunter par excellence in David Downing. Hopefully, Oklahoma will be as kind to us when we see them on Thanksgiving Day.” Of course, Nebraska went on to defeat Oklahoma in the game of the century the following week.
[Thanks to reporter Marty Pohlman and publisher Bill Blauvelt of The Superior Express for permission to borrow from their 2014 feature story.]
Preceded in death by wife Nancy (1929-1999)
Survivors: Children Dave Jr. (Candy), Brooke Downing (former husband John Lehman), Jeff (Diane), Lincoln; Tim (Pam), Yankton. Grandchildren Maggie Brokaw (Jeff), Bellevue; Kelsey Birchley (Karl) & great granddaughter Isla Mae; Spencer, Hudson & Gracie Downing, Lincoln; Knox Downing, Omaha; Hannah Carda (Tyler) & great grandson Beck, Yankton; Long-time companion and caregiver Roslyn Aden, Superior.
Celebration of Life on Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, 6300 A Street. Memorials to family for later designation. Condolences may be left using the form below.
Funeral Home assisting is Aspen Mortuary, 4822 Cleveland Avenue, Lincoln, NE 68504. To view an on-line obituary or email condolences please visit Aspen Mortuary’s website at www.aspenaftercare.com.
Condolences for David Bengtson Downing
To Dave Jr, Brooke, Jeff and families. Just heard about your dad’s passing. I have such great memories of working for the Downings. They treated their employees like family! Hugs to you all! Melva Gressley
Tim and family, you are all in our thoughts. Sending you hugs and prayers 🙏🙏
Brooke and family,
So many memories of your Dad. May he Rest In Peace. Hugs to you all
Laurie Kronberg Fitzer
May your Dad Rest In Peace. So many memories of him and your family. Hugs to you all
Laurie Kronberg Fitzer
I always loved trading smart remarks with David at the Elks, a dear sweet man 😢🙏
My thoughts and prayers to Jefferson and the Downing family.
I am so sorry for your loss. David will be missed!
Always looked forward to your Dad’s visits to the lake. He was fun to talk to, always kind, and was a genuine, wonderful person to get to know. Sending love and prayers to you all ♡
Sorry for your loss, our thoughts and prayers are with y’all. I will never forget when David went to court with us in Hebron to help us keep our record clean as teens (we were totally innocent)! We were successful and I have no doubt that it was due in large part to his help.
So sorry to hear this. He was a special man, and I will always have great memories of him! Thoughts and prayers.
David was a family friend for many years. He and my dad, Dan Fisher, hunted together many times in western Nebraska. As a child, I enjoyed his visits as he always had a smile and kind words for us. We are thinking of all of you and pray that the many wonderful memories he leaves behind will bring you all peace and comfort.
The family of Dan and Alice Fisher–Dan J (Jenn), Catie and Amy
Dear David and Candi,
I was sorry to read about the loss of David’s father. I have a nice memory of him driving me to work downtown in his 4 wheel drive pick-up truck after my car couldn’t make it up the snowy hill to get out of our neighborhood. He was my guardian angel that day, and from his obituary, it sounds like he helped many other people as well. My sincere sympathy,
I was saddened to learn today of Mr. Downing’s passing. He had a ready smile and warm greeting for staff when he visited Jeff in the office. His obituary is beautifully written and has given those of us who knew him peripherally a deeper understanding of his many accomplishments. I am sorry for your loss.
I knew David as a boss, he was always very nice to me. I loved that he had a Halloween birthday. I know he was very proud of his children and grandchildren. Thinking of you.
We’re sorry for your loss. We all have many memories as our mother worked her David for so many years. Our prayers are with you.
The Elaine Madsen family
What an amazing life, doing good for others, i was ignorant of so many of David’s accomplishments. I think his best achievement lies in the children he raised with Nancy, a kind and generous soul, Dave, Brooke, Tim and Jeff and their partners who are certainly taking on the values of their parents. I Will be thinking of you all for David’s celebration of life on Sunday from Beijing. All my love.
Brooke and family — So sorry to hear of the passing of your father. He was such a wonderful person (and very good attorney!). Joe and I both have very fond memories of him in the courtroom. Joe has even fonder memories of the summer lake fun back in the day! He will be missed by all. Unfortunately, Joe is on vacation and I will be out of town this weekend and unable to attend the celebration of his life with you but want you to know our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Jeff and Family,
I didn’t know David. After reading his obituary, I wish I had known him. It would have been great to spend a day afield with him under the autumn Nebraska sky.