Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 31, 2008


Page 11



Isidore Dockweiler Dies After 58 Years of Law Practice




Isidore B. Dockweiler practiced law in the City of Los Angeles for 58 years. He hung out his shingle in 1889, and it didn’t come down until his death in 1947.

He and two pals of his—J. Wiseman MacDonald and Joseph Scott—each became charter tenants of the Wilcox Building in 1896. One of them, Scott, survived Dockweiler. The Los Angeles Times’ obituary on Feb. 7—which characterizes Dockweiler as the “dean of Southland lawyers”—quotes Scott as saying:

“Isidore Dockweiler was a most extraordinary and exemplary citizen. In the sunset days of his life he has been called home to the eternal mansions in the sky, an end of a journey full of accomplishment for God, his country and his fellow man, leaving to his splendid family of children and grandchildren a legacy beyond price.

“His name for more than half a century has been a synonym for vigorous accomplishment, proud and exalted in his affection for his native State, uncompromising against all these alien ideologies which surround us. He has set his example as a beacon light to guide us who are left behind....The personal loss to myself is inestimable, and my heart goes out with fervent sympathy for all his loved ones. God rest his gentle, intrepid soul.”

Dockweiler and Scott were both leading members of the Catholic laity and highly active in partisan politics—Scott as a Republican, and Dockweiler as a Democrat. Scott will be the focus of the next batch of columns.

Despite his devotion to the Democratic Party,  Dockweiler in 1934 backed the Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Frank Merriam and George Hatfield. This man, who had been the Democratic Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor in 1902 and an unsuccessful contender in 1926 for its nomination for the U.S. Senate, had not switched allegiances. It’s just that the Democratic nominee that year, Upton Sinclair, had recently switched labels from “Socialist” to “Democrat,” and Dockweiler wanted nothing to do with him.

This was the time of the Great Depression, and Sinclair claimed he could cure the state’s ills through a program called “EPIC” (End Poverty in California). Votes for him sprang from desperation. In a public statement, Dockweiler said:

“I was born and educated in Los Angeles city and for forty-five years have loyally supported and voted for every Democratic national and State ticket, without exception.

“During practically all of this long period I was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee and for sixteen years was a member of the Democratic National Committee.

“....I am unalterably opposed to the election of Mr. Sinclair, the lifelong Socialist with Communistic sympathies, as Governor of California, and Mr. [Sheridan] Downey, his running-mate.”

Dockweiler’s arch-rival in the Democratic Party was U.S. Sen. William G. McAdoo, as detailed here last week. The last thing Dockweiler would have wanted was having his identity linked with McAdoo’s. Yet, the two both supported the Republican ticket in 1934, and according to Charles W. Van Devander’s book, “The Big Bosses,” the “old-line Democrats” who opposed Sinclair were lumped together by “new party members...under the disapproving term ‘McAdoo Democrats.’ ”

(McAdoo ran for reelection to the Senate in 1938 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Downey.)

Dockweiler did contemplate a third run for public office.

The Times’ edition of Feb. 26, 1944, quotes Dockweiler, then 76, as saying he was “seriously considering” running for district attorney against incumbent Fred Howser. The DA had gained his job through appointment by the Board of Supervisors following the death of the elected holder of the office, John Dockweiler, one of Isidore Dockweiler’s sons.

The father decided not to enter the race—but another son of his, Henry Dockweiler, did, and was defeated.

Isidore and Gertrude Dockweiler had eight sons—five of whom became attorneys (one of them, George, ascending to a Superior Court judgeship)—and three daughters. The last of the children to die, in 2000, was attorney Frederick C. Dockweiler.

On Jan. 26, 1955, the California State Parks Commission changed the name of Venice-Hyperion Beach State Park in Playa del Rey to the Isidore B. Dockweiler Beach State Park. Dockweiler had served as a member of that commission from 1939 until his death.

He had, through the years, held several posts, including president of the Los Angeles City Library Commission and member of the U.S. Indian Commission.

In 1931—which marked the 150th birthday of the city—Dockweiler chaired La Fiesta de Los Angeles Assn. which succeeded in replicating the grand multi-day festivals staged in the 1890s by the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Assn. And that returns me to the theme of the Wilcox Building, this newspaper’s home, whose initial tenants included the M & M; Hans Jevne, who controlled finances of the initial fiestas; and Dockweiler.

Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company

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