La Jolla philanthropist Murray Galinson remembered as ‘peacemaker’


Though La Jolla resident Murray Galinson may be remembered most for his influence in political circles, business acumen or philanthropy, those closest to the native Minnesotan say compassion and diplomacy were equally prominent components of his character.

“He really was a great supporter of women and minorities and helping us break through those proverbial ‘glass ceilings,’” said La Jolla attorney and former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, one of the many beneficiaries of Galinson’s political backing and mentorship, which also included Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, California’s first African-American congresswoman, and Bonnie Dumanis, the nation’s first openly gay district attorney.

Galinson died unexpectedly Thursday, Jan. 3, following a recent surgery to remove a tumor between his spinal cord and brain. He was 75. It was not known at press time whether the surgery factored in his death.

Galinson is survived by his wife, Elaine, three children and eight grandchildren. Services were held Monday at Congregation Beth Israel.

Galinson was an attorney and law professor who served in leadership roles with the Galinson Family Foundation, Price Legacy Corp., Price Charities, the Leichtag

Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and San Diego Grantmakers, among others.

He received his law degree from University of Minnesota Law School, and his B.A. in psychology from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1958). He served as past board chair for California State University in Long Beach (2001-2009) and San Diego National Bank (1982-2009).

A former professor at Cal Western School of Law in San Diego, Galinson fought hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to see the school become a part of UC San Diego.

“It was his goal that UCSD would have a major, good law school and that it would be Cal Western,” La Jolla attorney Paul Peterson said. “It was a passion of his. He was a believer in the worth and credibility of Cal Western.”

After raising their children n La Jolla, Galinson and his wife, Elaine, lived for a while in downtown San Diego, though they soon returned to the Village they missed so much, occupying a home on Prospect Street.

“He was a big booster of La Jolla (and) a huge supporter of UCSD,” Schenk said. “He would love to stroll down Prospect Street and down to the Cove. I joked one time he was walking with several men (that) it looked like his posse, because Murray was so tall.”

Peterson, a former San Diego County Democratic Party chair, met Galinson in the 1970s, when they both were active in the campaigns of Democratic candidates. Galinson would go on to serve as manager of Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1984.

Peterson said politics was truly Galinson’s lifeblood. He was a close, personal friend of former President Bill Clinton, and a regular at Price Club founder Sol Price’s breakfasts at Harry’s Coffee Shop and lunches at the La Valencia Hotel’s Whaling Bar. There, the group engaged in lively discussions on politics and current events.

“If you were a Democrat and you wanted to come to town and meet people, you called on Murray first, and Murray would arrange introductions and in some cases a little private dinner or lunch,” Peterson said. “His role would be to help with the financing end of a campaign, trying to get people to contribute.”

Peterson said Galinson viewed the Democratic Party as “the party of compassion,” and was a “liberal in every sense of the word.”

Nevertheless, when partisan tensions were palpable in a room, Galinson would be the one to reach across the aisle and build consensus.

Schenk said that, like fellow Minnesotan and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Galinson was the “happy warrior.” “He took issues seriously, he took people seriously, but he treated everyone with respect, no matter whether they agreed with him or they didn’t,” she said. “He accepted people for what they were.”

Jack McGrory, a former city manager and Galinson’s most recent business partner at the financial planning and investment firm of La Jolla MJ Management, said Galinson’s peacemaking skills were particularly notable as one of the first chairs of San Diego’s Citizens Advisory Board on Police-Community Relations, which was formed in the aftermath of a racially-charged 1985 police shooting.

Though police at the time opposed any sort of oversight, McGrory said Galinson “really established credibility for the board inside the police department,” making constructive suggestions to the city manager for changes within the police department, which McGrory said led to the formation of one of the nation’s first neighborhood policing programs.

In recent years, Galinson vocally denounced the mounting political partisanship that has led to gridlock and acrimony at the local and national level, calling instead for increased civility and a change in political tenor.

“He loved the benefit which comes from politics, which in his view is the improvement and the betterment of mankind,” Peterson said.