Lexington attorney Thomas Fryman, devoted fan of the Talking Heads, dies at 74

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2014 

Thomas Fryman

Thomas Fryman, a well-known Lexington attorney who once was a lawyer for the congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal, died Thursday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Mr. Fryman, 74, had been ill for some time.

Mr. Fryman, who graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, had a storied and varied legal career that included six years as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan and several years at one of the nation's most prestigious law firms.

A Maysville-area native, Mr. Fryman returned to Kentucky in 1988 to join the law firm of Greenebaum Doll & McDonald in Lexington, where he focused on complex business litigation until his retirement in 2006.

"He was a great mind," said Brian M. Johnson, a lawyer in the Lexington office of the law firm that later became Bingham Greenebaum Doll.

John K. Bush, who works in the Louisville office for Bingham Greenebaum Doll, said Mr. Fryman took younger lawyers such as himself under his wing.

"Tom was respected by everyone he practiced with," Bush said. "He was an outstanding lawyer and a great friend. He taught me how to be a lawyer."

Mr. Fryman was not the type to bang his fists or resort to theatrics to win legal cases, his colleagues said.

"We had a case in Atlanta that we won based on Tom's eloquence," Bush said. "It was not an easy case."

But it was a legal career that almost got derailed.

"He always said his biggest career mistake was not becoming the manager of the Talking Heads," said his wife, Lisa Fryman.

He was joking.

Kind of.

Mr. Fryman knew Chris Frantz, the drummer for the Talking Heads and later the Tom Tom Club, because Frantz's family was from Washington, a town outside of Maysville where Mr. Fryman grew up.

"I bet my mother probably called his mother and asked her to see if Tommy could check up on me when I was starting in New York City," Frantz said Friday.

Mr. Fryman, who was clocking 12- to 18-hour days as a federal prosecutor in New York City, would stop by famed punk rock club CBGB to watch the group, who were most famous in the 1980s for songs including Burning Down the House and Wild, Wild Life.

It was often very late at night. Mr. Fryman was probably the only one in the club wearing a suit, Frantz said.

"I'm pretty sure he was the only U.S. attorney sitting at the bar at CBGB," Frantz said.

At one point, the band asked their well-dressed fan if he would become manager.

Mr. Fryman declined, citing his legal career.

But he was a lifelong fan of the group and of music. He was on the board of the Lexington Philharmonic and the board of trustees for the Lexington School.

Frantz said Mr. Fryman loved music and was a good piano player but rarely played in front of Frantz.

"He loved show tunes. He was a Stephen Sondheim freak," Frantz said. "I guess you could say his music tastes were balanced."

The two — who are distant cousins — remained friends for decades. The two were ushers at each other's weddings.

Mr. Fryman moved to Lexington in 1988 because he and Lisa wanted to start a family, Frantz said.

"He was a devoted family man," Frantz said. "He moved to Kentucky from New York because he wanted to give his family everything that Kentucky had to offer."

The Frymans have three daughters: Elizabeth, Ann and Julia. "He loved his family and his daughters," Frantz said.

After graduating from Harvard Law, Mr. Fryman worked for six years for the prestigious firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City. He spent six years prosecuting white-collar crimes as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. One of his best-known cases involved illegal campaign contributions from the Firestone tire company, Lisa Fryman said.

He worked as associate general counsel for PricewaterhouseCoopers before being hired as a lawyer for a joint House and Senate committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s.

Mr. Fryman took the job because many of his former colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's Office were hired as legal counsel for the committee, Lisa Fryman said.

In addition to the law and music, Mr. Fryman was an avid runner and walker, and he loved architecture, his friends and family said.

Jim Moose, who met Mr. Fryman when they were both 4, said his longtime friend and college roommate was always a gentleman.

"In 70 years, we had a lot of disagreements, but we never had a fight," Moose said. "He definitely had strong opinions. But he was very easy to get along with."

A memorial mass will be 11 a.m. Monday at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Maysville.

Beth Musgrave: (859)231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service