Admired lawyer dead at age 77

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By CHRIS BATEMAN

Considered the elder statesman among Tuolumne County attorneys, Ed Gorgas died last night at age 77.

Gorgas suffered a brain aneurysm on March 20 and died from its complications at Stanford Medical Center.

A private family ceremony will follow cremation. A memorial gathering of Gorgas' friends and colleagues will be held next week, tentatively at the Sonora Elks Lodge.

A third-generation Tuolumne County native whose grandmother was born at Shaws Flat in 1862, Gorgas graduated first in his class both at Sonora Elementary's Dome campus and at Sonora High School. He graduated high school in 1943, after serving as student body president and being named the class's best all-around athlete.

He continued his education at Modesto Junior College and the University of Southern California before joining the Army Air Corps. During World War II, he served stateside as an accountant until 1945.

Until then, Gorgas, always interested in politics and world affairs, fancied a career in the diplomatic corps. But by the time he was discharged, he had changed his mind.

"I began to realize that being rich and getting ahead seemed to be connected," said Gorgas during an October 2002 interview regarding his half-century of practicing law. "Since my last name wasn't Kennedy, I decided to look for another career."

He was accepted at the University of Santa Clara's law school, earned his degree and passed the bar exam in 1952. Gorgas was admitted to the California Bar in ceremonies before the state Supreme Court in San Francisco late that July.

He worked for two years as a $349-a-month prosecutor for the Stanislaus County District Attorney in Modesto, then spent two more years working for a private firm in the same city.

"It was all personal injury defense work," said Gorgas. "We probably represented 30 or 40 insurance companies."

In 1956, Gorgas returned to Sonora and joined the Washington Street practice of his friend and former Sonora High basketball teammate Jim Hardin.

He thus became the newest member of a five-member county bar that also included Ross Carkeet, Ted Vilas and William Coffill Sr.

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The Union Democrat
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