Recent Boalt Hall Graduate, an Inspiration to Many, Will Carry Olympic Torch on Friday

Contact: Janet Gilmore, UC Public Affairs, 510-642-5685

Berkeley, CA – Brigham Fordham’s own personal story of determination in the face of adversity could rival that of any Olympic athlete. Yet, when he learned that his mother had nominated him to help carry the Olympic torch, he never thought he’d be selected. And when an e-mail message popped up on his computer screen announcing, “Congratulations, you have been selected …,” he almost hit the delete button. “I thought it was spam!” Fordham recalled, amused. “I’m glad I didn’t delete it.”

Fordham, 30, will help carry the Olympic torch when it arrives in Oakland on Friday en route to Salt Lake City and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, which begin Feb. 8.

An Olympic nominating committee, supported by regional task forces, received more than 210,000 essays from friends, families and colleagues of the nominees. In all, 11,500 torchbearers were selected. They all share one characteristic: the ability to inspire.

Fordham graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) last spring and is now a law clerk to Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine M. Durham. He plans to return to the Bay Area when the one-year clerkship ends.

But back in 1989, he was a patient lying in a hospital bed. He was paralyzed from the chest down and in his hands. A car crash had left him a quadriplegic.

The crash had also, temporarily, eliminated his ability to speak. Working with a therapist, he communicated by strapping a gadget to his chin and tapping out codes that appeared as words on a computer screen. Over time, and with much rehabilitation, he regained his speech and set his sights on college.

Just one year after the accident, he enrolled in a local community college and then transferred to the University of Utah. He arrived at college equipped with a new power wheelchair and his own creativity – he learned he could take notes by placing a pen in his paralyzed hand and using the muscles of his arm to control the pen’s movement. Later, frustrated with the long bus rides to the university, he learned to drive an adapted van.

Fordham graduated from the University of Utah with high honors and soon enrolled in one of the top law schools in the country, Boalt Hall.

“He learned to cope with his disability with a sense of humor,” Fordham’s mother, Barbara Fordham, concluded in her nominating letter to the Olympic committee. “Brigham embodies the Olympic Spirit by virtue of his fortitude, perseverance and willingness to give of himself.”

Fordham became involved in community service after learning of its importance first hand, when many people assisted with his rehabilitation. Throughout his rehabilitation and during his years as an undergraduate and as a law student at Boalt Hall, he participated in community service at places such as the Arthritis Foundation in Utah and the Legal Aid Society in San Francisco.

While at Boalt Hall, he was a member of the California Law Review, was on the board of the Berkeley Law Foundation, and was president of the Boalt Disability Law Society, among other things. However, his interests had never really turned to sports — before or after the accident.

“Truth is, I’m not a big sports fan and have never followed the (Olympic) Games that closely,” Fordham admits. “For that reason, the nomination came as a surprise. But I think it’s quite an honor to carry the torch. This year, especially, the torch relay and the games seem to have great symbolic significance. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the games.”

Fordham will carry the torch up 51st Street in Oakland, starting at 2:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18. He will begin at Lawton Avenue, just below Telegraph Avenue.


NOTE: For more information on the nationwide torch relay, visit the media center of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games’ official Web site: