A fixture in San Francisco and California politics for more than 30 years, McCarthy was elected to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1963, won an Assembly seat five years later and became speaker in 1974. He ended his political career in 1994 after three serving three terms as lieutenant governor. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1988 and 1992.
Leo T. McCarthy, the son of an Irish bar owner who rose to become speaker of the California Assembly for six years and lieutenant governor for a record 12 years, died of a kidney ailment.
Leo Tarcisius McCarthy was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1930. Tarcisius is a Catholic saint canonized after he was beaten to death by Romans for trying to bring the Eucharist to Christian prisoners. His father, Daniel, opened McCarthy's Big Glass on Mission Street. A mug of beer, a hot dog and a bowl of beans cost 15 cents.
McCarthy enrolled at San Francisco Law School in January 1953 where he majored in history and lost his bid to become student body president. He attached himself to the established Democratic faction led by state Sen. Eugene McAteer, a lawyer and restaurateur who carried the legislation creating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
McCarthy ran McAteer's successful 1958 campaign and was rewarded with a job as his administrative assistant in Sacramento. McCarthy ran for and won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1963 -- at 33 he was the youngest supervisor elected in San Francisco history.
Appointed by Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown to the Commission on Aging in 1963, McCarthy spent the next four years exploring issues related to the elderly, which remained his chief policy interest over the next three decades.
After serving in the state assembly as speaker of the house, in 1982 McCarthy successfully ran for lieutenant governor. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1992, bested in the primary by Barbara Boxer. He left politics at the end of 1994.
In late 2002, McCarthy donated $1 million to his college alma mater, the University of San Francisco, to help create the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, which helps students get involved in public policy at the state, federal and local level.
McCarthy is survived by his wife, Jackie, and four children -- Sharon, Conna, Adam and Niall -- and 11 grandchildren.more » « less