Old Glory

Veteran Phoenix lawyer Gary Peter Klahr fought The Bar and The Bar won

Klahr graduated from North High School in Phoenix at 15, then quickly completed his degree at Arizona State University and headed south to Tucson, where he enrolled in the University of Arizona's College of Law.

At ASU and later at UofA, Klahr fought against mandatory ROTC training. He finally won in 1966 and, long after most others in the country, Arizona's Board of Regents made ROTC voluntary.

In law school, Klahr was elected to the student senate, where he quickly made enemies, particularly with staff at the campus newspaper, the Wildcat, who published a scathing editorial in November 1963.

"Senator Gary Peter Klahr, the campus demagogue, is now hissing in another pit, we see," it began, going on to charge that Klahr was trying to "hamstring" the Wildcat by taking away its student subsidy because he didn't like the paper.

"History proves that this is a dictator's first move. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini first killed their own press to substitute a lackey press of their own," the editorial continues, concluding of Klahr: "His ramblings and exhortations about the Wildcat and the Administration' are but a continuation of his desire to see his name bandied about as a troublemaker and a fanatic.

"Both of which he is."

And then the paper made fun of Klahr for attending ASU — perhaps the biggest slap of all.

Klahr sued the paper and lost. He couldn't convince the court that he wasn't a public figure.

Bob Hirsh, one of Klahr's classmates, represented him in the suit against the Wildcat. He remembers Klahr as the youngest, smartest, quickest student, and one who "was in the center of the storm, quite regularly."

Hirsh also recalls that Klahr was often treated badly by his peers. "He was one of these guys that antagonized people. He didn't mean to, but it was his style. . . .He was the antithesis of what all these little fraternity boys and girls were."

Popular or not, Klahr had his successes, too. During his third year of law school, Klahr made what will certainly be his most lasting mark on Arizona politics. That year, he filed a lawsuit claiming that legislative districts at the time gave rural, less populous areas too much power. He won, and the "cowboy legislators," as they were called, hung him in effigy in the lobby of the Arizona State Senate. The lawsuit created the legislative district system that exists to this day.

Klahr didn't want to practice law immediately. He had an assortment of jobs in the mid-'60s — running an ice cream parlor, campaigning for local political candidates, working with juveniles in Maricopa County, writing for Ev Mecham's newspapers. He was an investor in his brother Bruce's business, a head shop on Central Avenue in Phoenix called Inner Sanctum.

"We tried to do a restaurant called the Inner Sanctum drive-in, with hip burgers and peace burgers . . . but it didn't work," Klahr recalls. "The kids didn't come in and the adults didn't come in because . . . the walls were all black."

There was also a waterbed in the middle of the shop, and Klahr the news junkie had a United Press International news wire installed. Probably the only head shop in the world that had that, he figures.

"We were quite a curiosity. People would come in and catch up on sports scores."

Klahr thinks drugs should be legal, but he says he's never really partaken. Tried pot, but says he couldn't hold the smoke in his lungs long enough to get high. His sister baked him some pot brownies once, but he didn't get off on those, either, although they tasted good, he recalls.

"I've been fighting drugs all my life," he says. "Even though we had a head shop, it's not inconsistent. . . . Even at the head shop we had anti-drug literature."

Everyone told him he was wasting his talents, not taking the bar exam, so he took the test in February 1967, the same year as Sandra Ann Day (O'Connor). Day passed the test — one of two women who did — but Klahr's name did not appear on the list. The State Bar of Arizona refused to grade his test; his membership had been challenged.

Hirsh recalls how difficult it was for Klahr to face the humiliation that some of his peers didn't want him in their exclusive club. "His mother told me Gary just became reclusive," Hirsh says.

Klahr fought hard to get in. The case went to the Arizona Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled that while the myriad complaints against Klahr — including his comment to the Arizona Republic that the practice of law is "nit picking," and the charge that he had leaked confidential information while working for the county — demonstrated "poor judgment and a lack of . . . maturity," it did not "constitute a lack of good moral character."

Klahr was admitted to the bar in November 1967.

"Poor Gary," Hirsh says. "He's going through it again."


Those who celebrate Gary Peter Klahr's reputation as a lawyer remember the high-profile public interest cases he took with the ACLU. But, in reality, such work didn't come along so often, particularly in the past several years.

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5 comments
motherhemp420
motherhemp420

I grew up in Phx...and fondly remember Mr. Klahr.  It was the time of the ever expanding "War on Drugs" and the Liquid Giraffe with Christine Bohling.  I never had dealings with Mr. Klahr but always knew the Hippies in PHX had a friend in Mr. Klahr fighting the craziness of "the war on drugs" and civil rights.  Thank you so much...If you don't know now, I'll tell you...You are loved just for being you...you gave all of us hope.  Peace to you GPK...

Michael Bragg Flanagan
Michael Bragg Flanagan

I was once the defendant in a civil action pleaded by Mr. Klahr. It took time out of a busy life, cost me in attorney fees although the proceedings were thrown out for lack of even basically establishing anything like wrongdoing, "I agreed to pay mine if he paid his" simply because I wouldn't have missed that day in court for the world! Can't speak for my counsel... or the befuddled Judge. The man can expound. Lawyers say if you have evidence pound the evidence, absent evidence pound the table!" Mr. Klahr didn't even need a table! I also wouldn't have missed the pretrial settlement "wunch" with Mr. Klahr... I simply could not eat a thing it was so... enuf, I personally will regret Arizona not having a Gary Peter Klahr to kick around! He was an institution unto himself no doubt! And... there may be some Dracula left in him... like Yogi said, "It ain't over til it's over!" Michael Bragg

Chamberbrains@yahoo.com
Chamberbrains@yahoo.com

Gary Klahr is in ill condition at the moment and those who have a bitterness in thier mouth need be silenced for you do not know the man who has had open arms for those in need dispite is sociable skills he was very carring and warm hearted in many ways tho different he was by all means no creep nor was he dihonest to any of you his manors were just and his services were well served and for those who deny these facts or rebuke the truth uttering false accusations let the shame fall apond every work you yourselfs do

Former Prep Employee
Former Prep Employee

I met GPK back in the mid-90's when he was representing 2 students at the Phoenix Preparatory Academy in their suit against the mandatory school uniform. I was a member of staff and was incensed that this creep obtained my personal home address and contacted all of us by letter TWICE in an attempt to encourage us to be insubordinate and undermine the implementation of the School Uniform Policy and Dress Code. Turns out that he lost both students' cases AND the appeal and the uniform policy went on to be extremely successful.

Alexandra
Alexandra

I have know Gary from the 1886,... he was alway one of hte best to know.. I was looking for him.. need to get a hold of him,thanksAlexandra Seals/ Tell him Roger Rudman was my x partner he will remember.. I think best wishes to him

 
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