Percy Charles Heckendorf

Obituary written by Louise H. Heckendorf, pinrted in the Santa Barbara News-Press, January 30, 1975

Judge Heckendorf, 76, dies of stroke

Judge Percy Charies Heckendorf, 76, of 32 E. Junipero St., died yesterday afternoon in a local hospital of a stroke suffered Dec. 20.

He served as county district attorney from 1930 through 1942 and was a Superior Court judge from 1960 until his retirement eight years later.

He was born in Santa Rosa Nov. 5, 1898, to August J. and Jeanne Oriard Heckendorf. They came to Santa Barbara in 1908. He received his elementary education in local schools and was student body president at Santa Barbara High School when he graduated in 1919.

He attended Stanford University, graduating in 1923 with a BA degree, and from Stanford Law School with a doctor of jurisprudence degree in 1926.

During his boyhood he worked to help support his family, selling magazines, serving as a chauffeur for various Santa Barbara families, and clerking in State Street stores. While at the university he played semipro baseball, a sport he carried into his leisure time during his middle years in Santa Barbara.

In 1926 he joined the law firm of Heaney, Price & Postel, engaging in legal practice until 1930, when he became district attorney. He resigned that post in 1942 to accept an appointment by Gov. Earl Warren to head the state Department of Professional and Vocational Standards, and to serve on the Governor's Council. He returned from Sacramento in 1946 to resume private practice here.

In 1960 he was named to the Superior Court bench by Gov. Edmund G. Brown to succeed Judge Atwell Westwick. He retired from the bench Sept. 30, 1968, but was occasionally called back into service to preside over trials. He was hearing the Raef murder case at the time of his stroke.

Serving on the City Council from the Fifth Ward, Judge Heckendorf was chairman of the Water Commission during Norris Montgomery's term as mayor and represented Santa Barbara in the final adoption of the Cachuma water project. He was also active in local highway problems.

He presided at the trial of two swindlers responsible for the Embarcadero Estates land scandal in 1962.

Judge Heckendorf married Mrs. Louise Hall in the Stanford University chapel at Palo Alto in June, 1965.

He was a member of the Elks Lodge, the Native Sons of the Golden West, Santa Barbara Club, University Club, Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity, Kiwanis Club, Olympic Club of San Francisco, the county Bar Assn., and the state Bar Assn. He served as president of the District Attorneys Association of California.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three stepchildren, Mrs. Julie Meads of San Francisco, Mrs. Victoria Krend and Martin Hall of Santa Barbara, and two grandchildren, Carlene Meads and Julie Louise Krend.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Welch-Ryce Associates chapel, with the Rev. Virgil Cordona, OFM, of the Old Mission officiating. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery. Honorary pallbearers will be Judges John T. Rickard, Coleman Stewart, Charles S. Stevens Jr. and C. Douglas Smith; J. F. Goux, A. C. Postel and John E. Nordenson.

Friends may contribute to the Santa Barbara County Heart Assn. or the Memorial Rehabilitation Foundation at General Hospital in memory of Judge Heckendorf.

Click here for more information about Percy and his home in Santa Barbara

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(A-1 appears on the right curb heading north to identify the correct row.)

 

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This is an astonishing photo. It was taken at De La Guerra Plaza and shows Percy and his buddies, Earl Warren (then the Governor of California), Tom Storke (owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press) and Dwight Murphy (noted investor, Palomino horse breeder and owner of some 7,000 acres of Santa Ynez Valley property known as Rancho San Marcos) in the days immediately after World War II ended. Dwight was actively involved in Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Events surrounding La Fiesta most years drew all the "boys" together in Santa Barbara, but that was not the case this year, as La Fiesta Days were canceled during the war years. Percy's sister, Alice Bigler, earlier had been a Fiesta Queen. Percy was just completing a war-years term of service in Earl's administration and would the next year return to private law practice in Santa Barbara. Prior to his going to Sacramento with Earl, Percy was Santa Barbara County District Attorney for about twelve years leading up to World War II, and it was in his capacity as District Attorney that he met and bonded with fellow-Republican Earl, who was Alameda County District Attorney before becoming California Attorney General and later Governor. Percy, a conservative Republican, was later appointed to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court bench by Governor Pat Brown, who was a liberal Democrat. Earl was the Republican Party's choice for Vice President on the 1948 ticket headed by Thomas Dewey, losing to Democrat Harry Truman in a stunningly close election. President Eisenhower appointed Earl Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and in 1953 Earl became Chief Justice, serving until 1969. Earl is also noted for his appointment by President Lyndon Johnson to chair a commission to investigate the assassination of President John Kennedy, which assignment Earl only reluctantly accepted out of his sense of duty. Long-time friends, Earl and Percy passed away in 1974 and 1975, respectively. Dwight and Tom predeceased Earl and Percy in 1968 and 1971, respectively.