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Fred Baron, 61; Asbestos-Fighting Lawyer, Political Operative

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fred Baron, 61, a lawyer who won billions of dollars for clients in asbestos cases and served as finance chairman of John Edwards's presidential campaign, died of blood cancer Oct. 30 at his home in Dallas.

Mr. Baron, a founder of the Dallas-based Baron & Budd law firm, said he had worked as a youth sweeping mounds of asbestos from a factory floor.

He later built his legal career by suing makers and users of the material, including W.R. Grace & Co. and Halliburton Co., over claims that exposure caused lung disease and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer. Baron & Budd also represented clients claiming injuries from drugs and toxic chemicals.

Mr. Baron later sold his stake in Baron & Budd to be more active in Democratic politics, lobby against changes to limit lawsuits and serve as campaign finance chairman for Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina.

The New York Times reported in August that Mr. Baron had a role in helping Edwards, who is married, conceal an affair with Rielle Hunter, who produced videos for the presidential hopeful's campaign.

Mr. Baron died two weeks after he obtained an experimental cancer-fighting treatment following a public plea by his son, Andrew, who had called the drug Tysabri his "last-chance effort for life."

Mr. Baron received the Biogen Idec drug to treat his cancer last month after pleas also were made by former president Bill Clinton, cycling champion Lance Armstrong and Mr. Baron's wife, Lisa Blue, who also is a lawyer at Baron & Budd.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to give Mr. Baron the drug under a rule for compassionate use. Tysabri is approved to treat multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease and is in the early stages of testing for multiple myeloma.

Frederick Martin Baron was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and moved to Smithville, Tex., as a teenager. He was a 1968 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a 1971 graduate of its law school.

He was a past president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, now known as the American Association for Justice.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Baron is survived by four other children.

-- From News Services

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