George Gafford offers a lifetime of law and community service

George Gafford was born in Cleveland in 1916. He was educated in Cleveland Heights and London schools, graduated from Yale College in 1936 (National Intercollegiate 3-Man Fencing Championship), and received his J.D. from Case Western Reserve Law School in 1939. He was an attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1939 to 1946. He was an investigator of counterespionage and sabotage, U.S. Army Air Corps, and as a U.S. Navy lieutenant served at sea and as military governor of Ulsan Gun, Korea.

In 1945, Gafford married Toni Mehas. The couple had a daughter, Diane.

Gafford was in private practice in Cleveland from 1946 to 1969. He served as assistant attorney general of Ohio, adjunct professor at Cleveland College, Case Western Reserve Law School, Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine and Cleveland State Law School.

In 1980, years after the death of his wife and daughter, Gafford married Martha Austin. The couple have three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Gafford is a world traveler, having visited the Caribbean, Europe, India, Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa, Russia and Australia. He has participated in San Diego Superior Court civil arbitrations, sits on the board of the La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Symphony Pops, and is chairman of the California Western School of Law. He has written four books: “Odyssey of a Law School,” “Lawyers are Us,” “80 Years of Adventure” and “Take It Easy.”

What brought you to La Jolla?

During World War II, my ship was stationed in San Diego and I saw and fell love with La Jolla, while on liberty playing tennis in November! Many years later, I was standing knee-deep in water at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club beach looking up at Mt. Soledad, when I thought to myself, “Why should I practice law in Cleveland 50 weeks a year to spend two weeks in La Jolla when all these people seem to be able to make a living here?”

What makes the city special to you?

The Whaling Bar, and the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

Easier parking on Girard Avenue, and preserving the wonderful village atmosphere.

Who or what inspires you?

The great accomplishments of the many selfless people in the healing professions and in public service.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Along with Martha, of course, the diverse assemblage of Julius Caesar, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Mozart, Napoleon, Louis Pasteur, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Winston Churchill and Pablo Picasso.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Union-Tribune, Newsweek, Time, New Yorker and Joe Torres’ “The Yankee Years.”

What is your most-prized possession?

First Martha, then our family, and then our home and its contents.

What are your favorite movies?

“Disraeli,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Casablanca” and “Mr. Roberts.”

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

When the United States International University was in deep financial trouble, I devised and executed a plan to have a new nonprofit corporation purchase California Western Reserve School of Law from its failing parent university by assuming some of the USIU’s debt and giving it a note for the balance, saving the school as a solvent and independent fully accredited first-rate law school.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Everything in moderation … and to compromise and be a lover, but if all else fails, be a fighter.