Tuesday, June 10, 2008

January 5, 1982 Profile of Commissioner Donald Pike


"Pike, 57, feels the judicial system is strengthened by letting people like him on the bench. 'I think it would be terrible if only graduates of Stanford became judges because society isn't made up of Stanford graduates . . . We're a heterogeneous, polyglot, poly-complex and highly diversified society,' Pike said, adding that the bench should reflect the society it judges."

"Pike was born in Nebraska, the fifth of nine children. His father owned, and then lost, two farms there, so they moved to Oregon where his father destroyed his health working in a lumber camp. They drove to San Diego in 1929 in a Model T Ford."

"Pike grew up quickly as a child. When, at age 14, he began earning more money as a farm laborer than his father could, he decided he 'wasn't going to be disciplined anymore' and left home."

"First, he lived with an elder brother in a tar paper shack in the middle of a sugar beet field while the brother attended college in San Luis Obispo. He stayed next at a boarding school that a sister was running. Then Pike moved back to San Diego, living alone in its Tenderloin District . . .

"He was a messenger and a department store clerk - saving money to buy a $12 car - until he turned 18 and joined the merchant marine. By the end of World War II when he returned again to San Diego, Pike was an ensign and had sailed all over the world.

"Pike still likes to sail. He owns a 35-foot ketch and recently spent nine hours rowing 36 miles from Catalina to Marina del Ray.

"Starting in 1945, he drove a 7-Up truck for three years and an Arden Dairy truck for five, finishing high school along the way.

"The commissioner recalled that he bought his first shares of stock and his first rental house while he was a milkman, using money he earned from a second job."

Here's the thing about being a "self-made" man. You tend to drop out of your story all of the people who helped you make it. In this case, these people included my maternal grand-parents who bought my parents their first house around the corner from their own in "Hillcrest" -- a close suburb of San Diego.

Not to diminish one bit my father's enormous achievements. But it's just not right for people to believe every self-made man is truly self-made because we need each other to accomplish anything.

Here's the other thing. Despite having six living siblings; four living step-children; and two living daughters, the only people at his bedside during his final days were his wife Juanita and me. That's the tragedy of "self-made."

No comments: