It is with deep sadness that California Western School of Law announces the passing of Professor Emeritus George N. Gafford on December 6, 2014, in La Jolla, California.
Following a distinguished career in the law, Gafford moved to La Jolla in 1969 and became a full-time professor at California Western, where he taught until 1986. He devised the strategy and negotiated the purchase of California Western by a nonprofit corporation from United States International University, creating a newly independent law school in 1975.
During his tenure, he coached law school jury trial, appellate moot court, patent court, and client counseling teams, achieving three national championships. After his retirement, Gafford served on the Board of Trustees for 25 years and served as its chairman.
He authored four books: Odyssey of a Law School, detailing the history of California Western, Lawyers Are Us, 80 Years of Adventure and Take It Easy!, based on his signature phrase.
The moot courtroom and the intramural trial competition bear his name in honor of his role in launching the school's successful team competitions.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 25, 1916, Gafford was educated in Cleveland Heights and Griffon House School in London. He received a full scholarship to Yale, where he was on the 3-man epee fencing team that won the Intercollegiate Fencing Championship. He went on to qualify as a member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Squad.
He graduated cum laude in 1936, and received his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1939, where he was vice president of the Student Bar Association, received the Order of the Coif, and graduated first in his class.
Immediately after law school, Gafford worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he handled civil and criminal investigations, civil federal litigation, and was Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney for criminal litigation.
During World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a civilian, where he specialized in counter-espionage and counter-sabotage as well as labor negotiations. He then joined the U.S. Navy for active duty from 1942 to 1946, where he was first introduced to San Diego.
Returning to Ohio after World War II, Gafford was in private practice from 1946 to 1969. He served as an assistant attorney general of Ohio and was an adjunct professor at Cleveland College, Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland State University School of Law, cultivating a deep love of teaching.
In addition to his work with California Western, Gafford contributed much to San Diego, serving on the board of directors or board of trustees for numerous organizations, including La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Symphony Pops, San Diego Museum of Art Collection Committee, and Mainly Mozart.
Gafford is survived by his wife of 34 years, Martha A. Gafford, his children Gerald Cockrell of Abilene, Texas, Jana Bartlit and her husband Fred Bartlit of Castle Pines, Colorado, and Kathryn Casey Bolinger and her husband Timothy Bolinger of Scottsdale, Arizona; as well as five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and four nieces and their families. Gafford was preceded in death by his daughter Diane Gafford, for whom the law school's Diane Ethics Award is named.
At this time funeral arrangements are not complete, however services will be held in January.
The family offers that memorial donations may be made to the George N. Gafford Moot Court Fund at California Western School of Law, or the San Diego Symphony.