The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Gary Gayton

Civil rights attorney Gary David Gayton was born on February 25, 1933 in Seattle, Washington to Virginia Clark and John Jacob Gayton, the fourth of eight children. When Gayton was five years old, his family moved to the all-white neighborhood of Madrona, and although they dealt with regular harassment, refused to leave. Gayton earned his diploma from Garfield High School in 1951 and attended the University of Washington where he was a four year varsity track man and became captain of the team.

In 1955, Gayton graduated with his B.A. degree in political science at the University of Washington. After serving honorably for two years in the United States Army, Gayton was admitted to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He earned his L.L.B. degree in 1962, and was immediately appointed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to the post of Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, the first African American to hold this position. Under the supervision of Assistant United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Gayton sued the State of Washington to allow Native Americans to sell fish caught on the reservations off the reservations.

Gayton left his position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Brock Adams in 1965, and, along with three associates, formed the law firm of Stern, Gayton, Neubauer & Brucker, whose clients included anti-war activists and Black Panthers. In 1966, Gayton was one of five delegates invited from the State of Washington to attend “To Fulfill These Rights,” President Johnson’s first Civil Rights Conference. Gayton continued working as an attorney, filing a successful suit on behalf of female tennis player, Trish Bostrom, demanding a women’s tennis program and the right to try out for the men’s team until such a program existed. This suit anticipated 1972’s Title IX, which prohibited sex discrimination against students and employees of educational institutions.

Gayton assisted in the organization of the black caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, where Channing Phillips was nominated as the first black Presidential contender. In 1969, Gayton represented several black football players who had been suspended for failing to take a loyalty oath for their coach, Jim Owens, at the University of Washington. Gayton was invited to become a part of Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox’s staff in 1973, but he declined for personal reasons. Gayton also served as an arbiter for the City of Seattle during the construction of Interstate 90.

Gayton became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams’ Special Assistant in 1977, in which he developed an affirmative action program for the U.S. Department of Transportation which was asked to be adopted by all departments by President Jimmy Carter in his 1978 domestic policy speech. In 1980, Gayton returned to Seattle as of counsel for the law firm, Diamond & Sylvester. In 1985, Gayton became an investment banker, working as Senior Vice President for Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Company, the largest minority and female bond-underwriting firm in the nation. Gayton continues in the private practice of law. He recently served as chairman of the senior advisory board of the ninth federal judicial circuit. Gayton has served on the boards of more than sixty cultural and professional organizations. He recently was named to the Hall of Fame of Garfield High School. In 2006, the Seattle Metropolitan magazine named Gayton one of the 277 people who shaped Seattle since its founding. In 2005, Gayton received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Washington in political science.

Gayton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 26, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.307

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/26/2007

6/6/2008

Last Name

Gayton

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

James A. Garfield High School

Meany Middle School

Madrona K-8 School

University of Washington

Washington University School of Law

Gonzaga University School of Law

First Name

Gary

Birth City, State, Country

Seattle

HM ID

GAY03

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Washington

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

What a difference a day makes.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Washington

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/25/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Seattle

Country

USA

Short Description

Civil rights lawyer Gary Gayton (1933 - ) represented Black Panther Party members and other civil rights cases in Seattle, Washington. He also served as a high ranking official in the U.S. Department of Transportation under President Jimmy Carter.

Employment

U.S. Attorney's Office

Stern Gayton Neubauer & Brucker

U.S. Department of Transportation

Urban Mass Transportation Administration

Smothers Douple Gayton & Long

Diamond & Sylvester

Grigsby Brandford & Co.

Cusack Knowles Ferguson

Siebert Brandford Shank

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2852,51:5796,152:8832,215:11592,248:12328,283:18124,387:25484,533:25852,538:33254,562:38414,827:48390,954:69170,1259:76784,1352:98724,1526:101028,1565:101412,1570:103812,1640:105732,1674:107076,1698:117468,1834:123036,1897:125340,1970:136956,2283:145882,2340:159479,2539:159864,2546:163714,2644:165639,2675:166794,2700:167179,2706:167564,2712:170790,2744$0,0:13736,201:14241,207:19886,245:27720,325:33480,451:34040,459:34600,469:35000,475:35560,484:35880,489:37640,527:38520,545:41240,598:41960,608:45480,662:46200,679:46760,687:47960,700:54252,708:55308,720:55692,725:56076,730:57900,750:59052,765:60204,780:63276,817:67980,884:69228,922:70284,935:70860,942:71916,955:73068,973:75756,1007:76236,1016:84030,1092:84638,1101:84942,1106:85246,1111:85702,1119:90718,1212:91402,1222:92390,1238:94974,1289:95658,1299:98318,1348:102422,1384:102954,1392:103942,1434:110436,1465:110752,1470:111779,1486:114386,1539:114860,1547:115176,1552:115650,1558:116677,1574:117230,1582:118731,1606:121022,1636:130380,1740:133715,1759:134520,1768:135555,1779:144156,1823:144758,1831:145618,1844:147682,1865:148456,1875:149488,1890:149832,1895:152154,1922:153874,1950:161810,2039:164640,2071:166836,2118:167263,2126:175660,2174:183840,2289:187760,2365:188740,2377:189440,2390:189860,2398:190140,2403:190910,2417:192030,2436:196808,2474:208263,2710:222772,2855:223353,2863:223934,2872:225843,2912:229163,2961:231487,3017:234060,3071:234807,3083:235637,3094:236135,3102:238210,3137:238957,3148:239787,3159:240202,3166:245550,3180
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654494">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654495">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton reflects upon his life, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654496">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton reflects upon his legacy, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654497">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton talks about his parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654498">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton describes his community involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654499">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton narrates his photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654500">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gary Gayton narrates his photographs, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654501">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Gary Gayton's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654502">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654503">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654504">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654505">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton describes his paternal grandfather, J.T. Gayton</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654506">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton describes his father's musical talent</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654507">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton describes his parents' personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654508">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton remembers moving to the Madrona neighborhood in Seattle, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654509">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton remembers his first work experience</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654510">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton talks about his early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654511">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gary Gayton recalls his decision to attend the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654512">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gary Gayton remembers trying out for the track team at the University of Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654513">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton remembers his athletic activities at the University of Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654514">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton describes his studies at the University of Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654515">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton describes his experiences at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654516">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton recalls his decision to attend the Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654517">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton remembers his U.S. Army Service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654518">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton talks about race relations in Seattle, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654519">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gary Gayton remembers founding the Loren Miller Bar Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654520">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gary Gayton recalls his hiring as an assistant U.S. attorney</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654521">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton remembers his colleagues in Seattle, Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654522">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton recalls his first cases at the U.S. attorney's office</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654523">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton remembers the push to hire African American assistant U.S. attorneys</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654524">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton recalls his time as an assistant U.S. attorney</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654525">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton recalls representing black football players from the University of Washington, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654526">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton recalls representing black football players from the University of Washington, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654527">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gary Gayton remembers defending a Black Student Union protestor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654528">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gary Gayton remembers representing the Black Panthers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654529">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gary Gayton remembers representing a white supremacist organization</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654530">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton remembers representing Trish Bostrom</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654531">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton remembers his involvement with the Seattle SuperSonics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654532">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton remembers joining the U.S. Department of Transportation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654533">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton describes his duties in the U.S. Department of Transportation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654534">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton remembers his decision to leave the U.S. Department of Transportation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654535">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton reflects upon President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.'s administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654536">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton remembers his resignation from the U.S. Department of Transportation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654537">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton talks about the role of political loyalty</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654538">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton remembers becoming a legal consultant in the public finance sector, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654539">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton remembers becoming a legal consultant in the public finance sector, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654540">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton recalls the investment firm of Siebert Brandford Shank and Company, LLC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654541">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gary Gayton reflects upon his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654542">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gary Gayton reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654543">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Gary Gayton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654544">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Gary Gayton talks about the importance of work life balance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654545">Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Gary Gayton describes his friends and family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654546">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Gary Gayton talks about the Institute for Black American Music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654547">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Gary Gayton reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654548">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Gary Gayton recalls his mentorship of Judge Richard A. Jones</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654549">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Gary Gayton describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/654550">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Gary Gayton narrates his photographs, pt. 3</a>

DASession

2$2

DATape

5$3

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Gary Gayton remembers representing a white supremacist organization
Gary Gayton describes his paternal grandfather, J.T. Gayton
Transcript
But they knew that I had--I mean, you know, at one time I had--I don't know if it was Aaron [HistoryMaker Aaron Dixon] or Elmer [Elmer Dixon III] in my office on something, and I had the head of the Minutemen in my office. See, the, the marshal's office [U.S. Marshals Service] was still referring cases to me. And the head Minuteman was in here--$$Now, the Minutemen, for the sake of history, tell us who they were (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The Minutemen, they were very conservative. They were, you know, right of the Ku Klux Klan [KKK]. These were people who had, you know, they hated their mothers, Catholics, blacks, everybody (laughter).$$(Laughter) The government.$$The government, you know. They were stashing (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The activists, everybody.$$--they were stashing weapons and all that.$$So were they a militia.$$Militia type, yeah.$$Okay, all right.$$And they were out of--primarily out of east Washington, which is the conservative portion of this state. And so anyway, they, they asked the marshal's office, one of the guys, who should we get to represent us. And he said, "Well, I'd get [HistoryMaker] Gary Gayton, one of the marshals." And so they came in. And I charged 'em double what I normally would charge everyone else 'cause I didn't really wanna represent 'em. And anyway, we went to, to court and they were found guilty. And so in their paper, in east Washington, came out, "Nigger Attorney Turns Against" (laughter). But what was so funny, prior to that was that it was either Elmer or Eleano- or some other, one of the Black Panthers [Black Panther Party] sitting in the office, saw the guy. And, and he came in the office. He said, "Hey, Gayton, you know that guy's the head of the Minutemen. How do, how come you, how can you represent him?" I said, "He pays better than you guys" (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$But those were exciting and fun times really (laughter), you know.$$It seems like that, that could only happen in Washington for some reason. I don't know. I've been around the country and I'd be hard pressed to figure out another place where something like that could happen.$$(Laughter).$$You have the Minutemen sitting in an office of a black attorney (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Laughter) Black man (laughter). But that was something when I saw that headline, "Nigger Attorney Turns Against." And, and what was so funny, one of the women on the jury came to me and said, "Mr. Gayton, you seem like such a nice young man. How can you represent such a terrible person?" Yeah, (laughter) and I said, "Ma'am, we- that's what we're supposed to. We're supposed to represent 'em, the best of our ability. We don't agree with what they're doing, but--."$Okay, we're talking about your [paternal] grandfather, J.T. Gayton [John T. Gayton].$$Yeah, he, he started work--some time, I figure before the 1900s, for the Rainier Club [Seattle, Washington] as the chief steward. And I didn't realize--I'm a member of the Rainier Club, and I didn't realize that it was such a responsible position. I found out later, after talking to the historian of the club, and I later, when asked, served on the board of the Rainier Club so I could find out more about my grandfather. I just thought chief steward was like head waiter or something, but chief steward was managing, like the operating officer of the club. And what the historian of the Rainier Club told me that my grandfather made more money than about 60 percent of the members of the club at the time. And I didn't--the reason I was interested in finding out more about it is that Eddie Carlson [Edward Carlson], who was the president of United Airlines and also president of Western International Hotels, had been the chief steward there. That's where he started. And I said, well, gee, that position must have been an important position. That's when I checked with the historian, and I found out it was a very important position in the club. And my grandfather had great stature in the community because of that, especially in the, in the black community. And he was asked by the federal judge [Cornelius Holgate Hanford] who had just been appointed in 1904 to come with him to the federal courthouse and said, "Well, you're not gonna make as much money working for the federal government. But you'll have pension and you've gotta watch out for your family." So my father--grandfather went and went to work for him and stayed in that position from 1904 until he retired in about 1952. And he is mentioned in all the history books of the federal court in the Northwest because he not only became the bailiff for the first federal judge, but he became the librarian for the Ninth Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit] that would--judges who would be here in town, the Ninth Circuit library at the federal courthouse.$$I heard he had a phenomenal memory from--$$Pardon?$$He had a phenomenal, phenomenal memory for cases. That's what I heard.$$Yes, he had a phenomenal memory for cases, and that's one reason, I mean he was so appreciated by so many of the lawyers, and made it much easier for me when I became a, a lawyer. The only thing, we would--my father [John J. Gayton] and grandfather talked about all the time was lawyers. They--and I, I think I was somewhat political as a child and when my one brother said he was gonna be an engineer and so I said I was gonna (laughter) be a lawyer. I was treated very well by my grandfather (laughter). And, and they, the history--there's a history book of the first 100 years of the federal court in Seattle [Washington]. And they mention that I was like J.T. Gayton, that they mentioned that his, his grandson, [HistoryMaker] Gary Gayton is a prominent attorney in Seattle. So I--I have a lot of pride in my connection with my grandfather--$$Okay.$$--and father because my father was such a wonderful man.