Starting in Phoenix 1969 – 1974

So, in March of 1969, I went to Boston, decided that there was too much cold weather and not enough Spanish spoken to set up shop there.  In a prescheduled phone call, I told my fiancee that it looked like Phoenix was the choice.  Her answer was “whatever”.  I had to arrive in Phoenix before Midnite on 3/31/69 or they would not let me take the Bar Exam in July.  I got a flight that brought me to the gate by 11:45pm and had three folks waiting there to sign affidavits that I had arrived in time.  The Law Firm had arranged with a client of Sy Sacks (one Manuel Wilkey) that he would provide me with a car (as Wilkey was in the business).  On April Fools day, I went to the firm, signed a few papers, got into the promised car (an enormous blue 4 door 1959 Cadillac sedan with plates taped to the window).  I was heading out to get an apartment and shop for a car.  I was stopped by a pleasant Phoenix policeman who enquired about a non-working tail light.  Within moments, he had elicited that I had a job and was driving on my Massachusetts driver’s license.  He wrote me up for the tail light, the plates improperly attached, and for driving on my foreign state’s license while being a resident (there was and is no “grace period” in Arizona).  I continued on my way, rented a one bedroom efficiency apartment at 16th Street & McDowell, bought a 1967 Chevie Malibu, had it licensed to the new apartment’s address, and returned to the law firm.  The three tickets would put 8 points on the Arizona Driver’s License that I needed to get right away.  If I got it and the tickets stuck, I would be unable to drive…  One of the Partners in the law firm (Dushoff, Sacks, and Corcoran), Bob Corcoran, the guy with whom I was to work for the next several years, told me not to worry.  He would represent me on the 3 tickets in City Court.  Sy Sacks called me into his office and told me to prepare an affidavit by Mr. X stating A,B, C, etc.  I left his office, went to the chief secretary (it was a 4 lawyer firm) and asked Bernce Schumacher,  “when you write an affidavit, how does it start off?”  Bernice looked at me a little sharply and said:  “Mr. X, upon his oath deposes and says as follows…”   Harvard had never taught its law students anything practical and I had been 4 years out of the classroom doing non-law stuff in Venezuela.

My job at the law firm was to back up Bob Corcoran (who later became Justice Corcoran).  Bob had been a water bond lawyer at a large and famous Phoenix firm.  One day, he walked into the County Attorney’s office in 1962 and asked if they would hire him and let him try murder cases, which he proceeded to do very well for four years.   He then went into private law practice doing criminal defense and needed a spear carrier who knew the game and would work long hours.  It was a help that I spoke Spanish and had been involved with jail visits and prisoner interviews, then criminal defense cases as a third year student  in Cambridge during the last 2 years of lschool.   The work at D.SC. was interesting; the hours were crazy; Bob was a dynamite teacher, given to sending me off to do things that I had never done before.  Every Saturday at 8am I met Bob at the office and, across his huge Oak Desk (brought down from a saloon in Prescott), we would share a thermos of coffee, 2 donuts, and discuss the week’s new cases in the door, hearings held, motions filed, and plans on each case for the next 2-4 weeks.  Among our clients was the then U.S. Senator for Arizona, picked up and booked for driving under the influence.  I went to the jail myself at 3am one night and bailed out Paul Fannin, who a few days later pleaded guilty, served a day, paid his fine, and complimented the boys in blue for doing their jobs.  As that first summer wore on, I learned what hot really was.  I took a Bar Review class and sat next to Cornelius J. O’Driscoll, then recently arrived from my Native Boston.  I could not then imagine that he would become my next door neighbor for 15 years in 2 different neighborhoods and that his wife would become my wife’s best friend…

Somewhere in here I thought that I had better get myself up to Susan’s parents’ farm in South Central Illinois.  I caught a plane and Susan’s father, Wayne Fennel , met me at the St Louis airport.  I had prepared.  I had memorized a list of the names of cows and their descriptions.  As we left St Louis, I waited for the right opportunity, caught sight of a fine bovine specimen, ran through the list in my head, and stated: “That is a good looking Swiss Chocolate Bull over there…”   I had misremembered the list (it was a Brown Swiss) but it kept Wayne in stitches for the next 60 miles.  We arrived at the farm (in the middle of no where) and the 2 young kids (Jim and Patty) met us at the back door.  Susan’s mother (Cecelia always referred to as “Bug”) was cooking Jonnie Marizetti, an italian dish.  As we sat in to dinner, I picked up my fork and realized that I needed to wait for grace to be said.  As I took the first mouthful, Susan’s mother said:   “And what religion are you, David.”  Not seeing the beckoning shoals, I gave a 150 word response about my near atheist world view.  Susan’s mother left the table, wept in the living room and then called the local priest.  He arrived in an hour wearing a brown robe with a rope belt and carrying an attitude.  After interviews with several of us who had been at the dinner table, he told me that the marriage could not occur.  I cited him some Canon law with which he had never had any contact.  After a sort of uncomfortable weekend, I came back to Phoenix and had to write the Catholic Bishop of Illinois a brief citing Canon law – which he agreed with.  The Brown Frocked priest was sent to some other parish.  No more was heard of this problem.

Working long days and wild cases, doing class for the Bar, then studying til midnight for the Bar Exam got old fast.  In July, we all went down to Tucson, where the Bar Exam would be given for 2 days at the U of A Law School’s Great Hall.  The guys at the firm recommended the Tidewater Hotel, conveniently located to the U of A.   At 2am in the morning before the exam, the Tidewater Hotel (owned by the mob) was dynamited.  About 75 guys who were staying there for the exam stood in the Street in their pajamas to watch the firemen, all the while reading from their Bar notes so as to use the time well.  As the exam commenced, my name was called and I went down front and was handed a telegram.  It was from the guys in the firm and was a long litany of quotes from outdated Old English Laws, the Statute of Shifting Uses, the Rule against Perpetuities, etc.  I tore it up and dropped it in the wastebasket so no proctor would think it was a cheat sheet for the 2 day exam.   I passed and life got easier.   Susan got out of the Peace Corps in August of 1969 and came to Phoenix to stop here on her way to the farm.  I promised to get another car (we would need two) and to get it up to her in Illinois so she could get around while she planned our wedding for November 29, 1969.   I went out and bought a 1968 Olive Green Pontiac GTO with a 6 liter engine, loud pipes, and a special Hurst Racing Transmission.  I drove it up to Illinois in one 28 hour drive around October 1, 1969.  Susan’s brother and sister agreed it was one “Boss” vehicle.   Susan planned a pretty big wedding at a little parish church then a reception at the Rockcliffe Mansion on the River at Hannibal Missouri.   My best man was my old friend from Harvard Law School weekends, Lee Dushoff.  I think most of the attendees at the wedding had never met a jewish person and it was an interesting cultural exchange.  The wedding was attended by about 8 or 10 Peace Corps people from Susan’s group.  They ate anything and everything put in front of them, filled the gastanks for their cars before they left the farm, and generally really had a blast and were slow to leave.    On my wedding night, upon carrying Susan over the threshold at the hotel, I managed to leave outside on the doorstep a prominently marked suitcase.  The suitcase was spotted by the Peace Corps  volunteers who stood outside the door for a long time shouting advice and suggestions…  We drove the GTO and a trailer that consumed a lot of gasoline to Phoenix, did a honeymoon in Frisco and Route 1 down to San Diego, then came home to a tiny apartment at 15th Street and Campbell just before Christmas of 1969.

The Law Firm was called Dushoff, Sacks and Corcoran, and was on the 15th floor of the newest downtown office building.  My initial salary was $12,000 a year.  When I was a week in the firm, the chief secretary, Bernice, came to me and said,  “Did you agree on a salary with ‘the boys’?”  I said, “we never discussed money.”  With that, s hunted  and bearded the 3 partners and, as an afterthought, my salary was set by agreement between them and me.  Susan found a job within a week of our setting up house in our tiny apartment.  She started teaching mathematics to the children of migrant workers out in Peoria.  It was a long drive and chaotic changing classroom makeups.  In April, she got a call from Phoenix Union High School.  They had a bilingual 4 year high school program and their bilingual math teacher suddenly had gotten called up to a professional baseball team.  They needed Susan immediately, were paying top dollar of all the school districts, and would get her a temporary certificate while she took 2 years to get a teaching Masters from ASU.  Susan fell into a neat job where she worked with gifted selected young teachers under Maria Vega,  a lady known here and in Texas, who ran the program.  The students were motivated and flowered under the hothouse program, which weaned them off of Spanish and into English, while teaching them material (Math) that they had never understood from teachers in the grades below who were unable to speak Spanish.  Susan’s connections in the world of bilingual education promptly immersed us is what was really going on in Phoenix.  Segregated eduction (Blacks and whites) had lasted in Phoenix til 1962 when Carver High School closed.  A very uneasy truce existed in the schools and, in fact in 1973 there was a major student walkout and strike over racial discriminatio at Susan’s high school.  My Law Firm had requested that, for the first three years, I not spend time and energy on extra-curriculars.  They wanted me to really apply myself to becoming good at my trade, i.e. Criminal defense.  I was trying, but the City was wracked with racially based divisions and disputes.  The Phoenix Union High School District had some 30,000 students in 15 schools and the 5 man Board of Trustees elected every 2 years was a bunch of five older white guys.  No matter what was done, the Chicanos and Blacks could not work together – and the election was at large – so white candidates beat any minority candidate every time.   By the summer of 1970, I found myself enmeshed in the creation of a possible treaty between the black and brown communities so that there could be a compromise candidate for the School Board.  In my living room, Calvin Goode (a firebrand from the black community) sat down with Rosendo Gutierrez (a firebrand from the Chicano Community).  Each brought seconds and supporters.  A deal was cut and for the next 3 elections, a compromise candidate ran with the support of both groups, first Gutierrez, then Reverend Carrico, and then another.  Nothing could breach the at large feature of the election as a safe harbor for the white community and their handpicked candidates.   That feature, the at large election, was hamstringing candidates that sought to alter the entrenched City Council elections…  The access to education was an important feature of the American Dream for minorities and they could not even get a seat at the table to help make decisions.  High school drop out statistics were horrific and Blacks and Browns felt they were not being heard.

Working for candidates for school board for the huge unified high school district board showed me that the City was Balkanized  and  conflicted worse than the school board situation. This was a Charter Government City, ruled by a 30 year old businessman group called the Phoenix 40.  They were comprised of the newspaper, plus the utilities, plus the Banks and developers, plus a few big employers – and they were used to having their way.  I found myself bucking their candidates, criticizing their actions, and folks told me I was swimming upstream against powerful currents and forces.  About that time,  I figured out that two forces, the churches and the neighborhood associations were going to remake Phoenix, so I enlisted in the latter.  I made friends in the neighborhood groups, advised them on their fights with City Council and the Charter Government buddies who were the developers trying to gut neighborhoods and build high rise buildings all over town. My friend Rosendo “Rosie” Gutierrez ran for Council then for Mayor with my help and Charter Government was growing ever weaker…  By 1973,  I had several campaigns under my belt on the local scene.  I had become counsel to the Democratic Party and served two years. Bob Corcoran had left the lawfirm and gone to a firm across the alley, which merged with Fennemore Craig.  Criminal defense practice had become non-economic because a huge public defenders office had been created. Bob left to do divorce practice at a big firm. I turned to civil litigation then to construction law litigation.  The law firm was growing and all looked good.  Then Rosie Gutierrez made me an offer that I could not refuse, one which was going to change my future totally…Rosie said that he knew a guy named Raul Castro, a former judge from Tucson who was going to run for Governor of the State.  Raul  needed 4 new tires for his 1958 Pink Thunderbird so he could drive the State..  Did I want to get in on the ground floor and raise some bucks, then help set up and run the campaign…

The chance to run an Hispanic candidate and unite the minority communities was so appealing thatI could not resist.  With my friends and my wife, Susan, I went whole hog into the Campaign, serving as sort of a lawyer riding herd on the wild and crazy old pols from Tucson that wanted to do a traditional smoky room sort of campaign, one that had some questionable and not disclosed sources of cash.  A legal committee of Tom Tang, Dennis DeConcini, and myself was formed and we fought to keep the campaign straight under a brand new campaign finance law. We had 19 campaign committees  and it made for a lot of oversight to keep the old crowd from screwing up under the new law.  After a year and a half of hard work, Castro was elected Governor in a cliff hanging election against Russ  Williams, whose slogan was a racist swipe, “He looks like a Governor”. Meaning, Castro looked like a Mexican…  It seemed exhilerating.  There was a chance that we were going to have a fair playing field to advance the cause of minorities..  So the next story in this chain will deal with how it all went awry in about two and a half years!

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