Richard W. Renehan, a widely respected Boston trial attorney whose work on Martha’s Vineyard spanned more than four decades, died March 4 at Massachusetts General Hospital after a brief illness. He was 86.

Mr. Renehan helped successfully defend Edgartown against big-money developers more than once — in the 1980s, when South Beach was at risk from claims of private ownership, and in the 1990s when the Wallace brothers, who at the time owned Herring Creek Farm, mounted a high-stakes challenge to three-acre zoning. That case was argued all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. It was considered the most significant legal opinion for the Vineyard since the SJC ruled in favor of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in the Island Properties case in 1977, the first test of the legal powers of the commission.

Mr. Renehan graduated from Boston College magna cum laude in 1955, and from Harvard Law School in 1958.

Over more than half a century his work covered a broad range, both trial and appellate, civil and criminal. He was highly regarded by his peers in the legal community, and won numerous professional accolades.

He was a partner at Hill & Barlow in Boston for most of his 55-year career. When that firm dissolved 2003, he joined Goulston & Storrs.

Kindly in demeanor, with a twinkle in his eye, Dick Renehan’s skills in the courtroom were legendary. His shredding cross examination of an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the three-acre zoning trial at the Massachusetts Land Court has been recounted more than once, including at his retirement dinner nine years ago.

He represented other attorneys in malpractice cases, and mentored of generation of young attorneys.

And while he never lived on the Vineyard, he loved the Island and its people.

“Dick Renehan was a great trial lawyer, a wonderful man, and a true friend of the Vineyard. It was a privilege to work with him,” said longtime Edgartown attorney Ron Rappaport, who worked with Mr. Renehan on the South Beach and three-acre zoning cases, among many others.

“To his dying day, he held the Vineyard in his heart,” said Richard Zielinksi, a partner at Goulston who also worked with Mr. Renehan for many years.

He is survived by his wife Mary and family.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.