Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

David James Mattingly


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February 3, 1952 – November 18, 2016

David James Mattingly, 64, following a life of courage, pluck, and conviction, died of melanoma in Palm Springs, California on November 18, 2016.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1952, David was preceded in death by his loving parents, Mary Laura "Sis" and George Mattingly, a World War II vet; and younger brother, Mark. During childhood, David's parents imposed a mandatory dinner hour – his Dad's unmistakable whistle commanding the start of the meal, phones and TV unplugged – a nightly theater of excited talk, intense opinions, raucous fun, and always imbued with love. This family setting had a searing impact on David's worldview, forming tastes that were decidedly Catholic throughout his life.

He is survived by his sister, Susan Mattingly of Louisville; sister, Marilyn Mattingly of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and brother, Mike of Louisville. Marilyn was a tower of strength during his last days and – gratefully – her caregiving did little to interfere with her much-loved 17 daily shopping trips. Her familial love in a time of need was exemplary. David had a lifelong soft spot in his heart for Susan, while Mike filled the role of big brother with aplomb.

At the time of his death, David had eight nephews, the terrific wives and a husband of three of those nephews; 11 great-nieces and nephews; goddaughter Lily, two godsons and his beloved shih tzu, Ollie. David had two long-term partners, one an exuberant cowboy raised on the central coast of California, the other a cerebral Cornell educated architect.

With a gift for friendship – and of gab – David is also survived by treasured friends Ted, Kendrick, Carol, Steve, Joe, Cindy, Scott/Rich, Greg, Robin, Rachel, Oliver, and so many others. He also leaves behind many loving cousins, especially Tommy and Jan Burnett, whose strong and steady presence brought David great comfort during his illness.

David attended St. Pius X Grade School and St. Xavier High School, both in Louisville. In 1974, he received his B.A. in political science from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. 

Fresh out of college, David's first job was as a legislative analyst on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to Congressman Ron Mazzoli (D-Kentucky). There, he was a witness to history, including Watergate, Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency, and the end of the Vietnam War.

David settled in San Francisco in the late 1970s, doing paralegal work for the international firms of McCutchen and MoFo, the San Francisco city attorney and clerked for Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court. In those early days, David stood with Harvey Milk and his merry band of men who gave voice to gay liberation. David was a more than three-decade resident of foggy, magical San Francisco before he retired to the warm desert air of Palm Springs.

In 1984, David was awarded his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Following several years doing corporate health care law, David found in San Francisco his true calling as a civil litigator. He won substantial jury awards and settlements, and as a trial lawyer was able to obtain relief for clients without the means to access the courts. (He had some hair-raising losses, too!) He tried cases against large corporate interests for discrimination, harassment, clergy abuse, concealment of toxic hazards, and business and contract fraud. At times he received kudos for work on oral argument and cross-examination, and for mastery of artfully crafted and persuasive briefs. 

David had an abundance of passions: the world of politics, avid reading with an especial penchant for American and English novels, history, and biographies of the famous and infamous. David was a decades long collector of art, particularly paintings and sculpture by emerging young artists. A colorist by nature, his provocative yet savvy collection never failed to evoke strong opinions. He was an enthusiastic swimmer over countless years, and a keen-eyed stock market maven.

Finally, David was an intrepid traveler who stepped foot on six of the seven continents (hey, Rich!), 56 countries, 48 of the 50 states (sorry, North Dakota and Vermont). Always eager for new things, David traveled through the vast stretches of the Patagonia (hey, Joe!), out of the way spots in Africa, including the ever-transcendent Serengeti plains, and was one of the first Westerners permitted into Beijing's Tiananmen Square after the 1989 massacre. He climbed into the Giza Pyramids and on the Parthenon before such access was eventually denied the public. David walked miles – his favorite mode of transport – through Tokyo, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Delhi, Moscow, Cairo, Nairobi, Capetown, Paris, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and the other great metropolises spanning the globe. Yearning for more, David lived for several years near Kensington Palace in London.

A celebration of David's zest for life will be held in San Francisco Saturday, February 4, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Greg Lind Gallery, 49 Geary Street, Fifth Floor (Directions only: Space and attendance are limited; confirmation is required by January 25. Call Joseph J. Bell (530) 272-7477 or (800) 576-7477 or email Suggested parking at Union Square or Sutter-Stockton garages.




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