Pat Hallford, Merced County district attorney from 1962 until 1986, is remembered as homespun, friendly, and skillful. The longtime prosecutor died Sunday in Sacramento at age 94.
Retired Merced County Superior Court Judge Bob Quall said Hallford was one of the best trial attorneys in the county. Quall, a judge from 1979 to 2007, worked nine years in the District Attorney’s Office before joining the bench.
“He had a homespun way of trying a case,” Quall said. “Pat was very likable from a juror’s standpoint and was very successful. He was very careful not to abuse his office at all. He was very professional and careful doing his job, a consummate professional.”
Quall said Hallford single-handedly kept strip clubs and porn shops out of Merced for years.
For a number of years, while going to law school, Hallford was an FBI agent in San Francisco and Montana and at one time was a clerk to J. Edgar Hoover, the bureau’s director. He completed law school at Emory University in Atlanta.
Superior Court Judge Frank Dougherty said one of his first jobs out of law school was working for Hallford. Dougherty was a deputy district attorney from 1978 to 1986 and district attorney from 1986-90 before becoming a judge.
“He (Hallford) was an excellent attorney and well-respected. He was highly regarded by criminal defense attorneys,” Dougherty said. “He was my mentor for 81/2 years before I became district attorney and I had some awfully big shoes to fill.”
Marlene Glusing, now a legal assistant handling child abduction issues with the District Attorney’s Office, said Hallford hired her in 1982 as a legal transcriptionist.
“Pat Hallford had a great sense of humor and was very fair,” Glusing said. “He could be stern when he needed to be. He was just a great boss and a fantastic attorney. I’m very sad to hear he has passed on.”
Merced attorney Ralph Temple said he came to this area in 1971 and met Hallford then when they were living at the Greenbrier apartments.
“You won’t find anybody that wouldn’t admire him,” Temple said. “He had a wonderful way with people. What a wonderful guy! He had a Georgian, Southern charm. District attorneys have a lot of power but he was always great at exercising discretion about his role. He was a straight-shooter and you could always talk to him.”
Rudy Pena of Lubbock, Texas, was a criminal investigator who worked with Hallford from 1981 until he retired five years later. Pena said Hallford was something of a mentor to him and a very good friend.
“Pat was a really good attorney,” Pena said. “I learned a lot from him. He was very low-key and always the fatherly type. He gave advice all the time.”
Joe Tresidder, a former assistant district attorney who works three days a week as a deputy district attorney, said Hallford handled some complex cases. One of the most notable was his successful prosecution of Kenneth Parnell, the kidnapper of Steven Stayner.
“He was a very fine man and a real role model,” Tresidder said. “He was a great boss, very intelligent and a capable trial lawyer. He had tremendous influence. He was the epitome of what you would expect from a public servant.”
Hallford was born in Demorest, Ga., and graduated from high school when he was 16 years old. He got his college degree at age 19 from Piedmont College, a small religious school in Demorest.
He then moved to Washington, D.C., and attended George Washington Law School, joining the FBI and becoming one of the youngest agents in the agency’s history, serving throughout the United States.
Even though FBI service exempted him from the military, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of second lieutenant before his discharge. He served in the Philippines and returned to Georgia to finish law school at Emory University.
He returned to military service in the Philippines to head the war damage commission and met his wife of 63 years, Nan, a flight attendant for Philippine Airlines.
Hallford is survived by his wife, Nan; and four children: Dan, Linda, Glen and Elizabeth. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Clelar Hallford, five brothers and a sister. He also is survived by six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A celebration of Hallford’s life will be held in March at a time and place to be announced. Condolences may be made at www.wfgormleyandsons.com