RW&G

A Note About Senator Richard Richards


Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Senator Richard Richards spent nearly his entire life in the greater Los Angeles area. A gifted orator, he won countless awards as a member of the debate team, first at Alhambra High School and later at the University of Southern California, where he received his A.B. degree in 1939. Richard Richards entered Harvard Law School in 1940 but the following year returned to U.S.C. to coach the college debate team while completing his law degree. During World War II, he served in the United States Merchant Marines.

Richard Richards was an enthusiastic and highly successful politician. Dubbed the “boy orator of the Democratic Party" in the 1940s, he became active in the California Democratic Central Committee in the late 1940s, and became a household name over the next two decades. He served in the California State Senate from 1954 through 1962, representing all of Los Angeles County in the days before Baker v. Carr mandated reapportionment of state legislative districts. He was a principal architect of the California State Water Project, which built facilities to bring water to a growing Los Angeles. A strong supporter of Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Richard Richards was in the limelight on a variety of progressive issues, and was twice the nominee of the Democratic Party for the United States Senate. He was a delegate to his party's presidential coventions several times, and delivered the Welcoming Address which opened the 1960 Democratic National Convention, held in Los Angeles.

Richard Richards, Glenn R. Watson, and Robert G. Beverly founded the law firm of Richards, Watson & Beverly in 1954. Upon leaving the State Senate in 1962, Richard Richards returned full time to the firm, then known as Richards, Watson, Van Petten & Hemmerling. He specialized in civil litigation and appeals, particularly eminent domain, real property disputes, and municipal litigation. He had a wonderful reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer and juries found him mesmerizing. He maintained an active law practice with Richards, Watson & Gershon until shortly before his death, in 1988, at the age of 72.

In addition to politics and law, Richard and his wife Bernice were inveterate world travelers. Late in life he remarked that he had visited every country on earth except Albania, and would have put his foot across the border from Yugoslavia but for Albanian soldiers armed with machine guns. Richard Richards remained active in politics and civic organizations throughout his life. He was a proud and generous supporter of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and served on its Board of Directors for many years.

Richard Richards was a true friend, a valued colleague and a great lawyer who led an admirable life. We are proud of his legacy and strive daily to honor his memory.