Co-founder of Los Angeles law firm

From a Times Staff Writer

Edwin Leroy “Roy” Tolles, a distinguished lawyer and founding partner of the Los Angeles firm now known as Munger, Tolles & Olson, has died, his firm announced. He was 85.

Tolles, who had been in failing health for several months, died of heart failure Monday at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto. He had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The firm began with seven lawyers in 1962 and is now a nationally regarded company with more than 200 lawyers. Tolles practiced there for 30 years until his retirement in 1992.


One of his partners, Ron Olson, said that “respect for clients and colleagues was in his DNA.”

“Roy’s common sense and quick wit undergirded our firm for 30 years,” Olson said in a statement.

In addition to his legal work, Tolles was an avid student of the financial markets and was a successful investor. He also was a partner in the investment firm of Wheeler, Munger & Co.

Charles T. Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the firm led by Warren E. Buffett, and a longtime friend and business partner of Tolles, said: “Roy was a man of great courage, in both his military career and his business life, and was blessed with a rare mixture of shrewd insight and good humor. He was a gifted lawyer and businessman and a wonderful colleague.”

Tolles was born in Winstead, Conn., in 1922 and grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

His father worked for Singer Sewing Machine Co. in New York City. Tolles majored in mathematics and graduated cum laude from Williams College in 1943.


During World War II, he was a pilot in the Marine Corps stationed in the Pacific. After the war, he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, then settled in California, where he was a member of the state bar for more than 50 years. Most recently he was a resident of San Marino and Montecito.

Tolles supported many local philanthropies, including the Pacific Asia Museum, the Pasadena Playhouse and Huntington Hospital. He also was a member of the Valley Hunt Club, the Athenaeum and the Society of Fellows of the Huntington Library.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Martha Gregory; sons Stephen of Pasadena, Roy III of Piedmont, Calif., and Thomas of Santa Monica; a daughter, Cynthia Tseng of Palo Alto; and 11 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Friends’ Hall at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made either to the Huntington Library and directed to the attention of Kimberley Valentine, or to the Stanford Hospital and Clinics, 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.