2016 Dan W. Lufkin Prize Recipient: Pete McCloskey, Jr.

Co-Chair of the first Earth Day in 1970 and a force of environmental consciousness, Pete McCloskey has help pass landmark environmental legislation like the Clean Water Act.


Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey, Jr., a Principal at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, is considered to be one of the country’s great trial lawyers, as well as a great public servant and war hero.

A renowned attorney who has tried over 100 jury trials, McCloskey began his law career as Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, and then as the founding partner in the law firm of McCloskey, Wilson & Mosher, which evolved into the firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. This firm, with over 600 lawyers, is now the largest law firm in California.

During his law career, McCloskey served as President of the Palo Alto Bar Association, President of the Conference of Barristers of the State Bar of California and as a Trustee of the Santa Clara Bar Association.

McCloskey received his B.A. from Stanford University and his J.D. from Stanford Law School. He has written four books and has taught legal ethics and political science at Stanford and Santa Clara Universities. His books include: Guide to Professional Conduct for New Practitioners, California State Bar (1961); The U.S. Constitution, BRL (1961); Truth and Untruth, Simon & Shustel (1971); and The Taking of Hill 610, Eaglet Books, (1992).

Following Stanford University, he joined the Marine Corps as an officer and served in the Korean War. While in the Marine Corps section, McCloskey commanded a reserve rifle company at San Bruno, California from 1953 to 1960.  A recipient of the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism, the Silver Star for bravery in combat and two Purple Hearts, McCloskey was a platoon leader and company commander. He retired from the Reserve with a rank of Colonel.

McCloskey served from 1967 to 1983 in the U.S. House of Representatives and was re-elected seven times representing the San Francisco Peninsula and Silicon Valley. He served six years as Congressional Delegate to the International Whaling Conference, and as Congressional Advisor to the Law of the Sea Treaty Delegation. An ardent environmentalist, he was co-chair of the first Earth Day in 1970 with Senator Gaylord Nelson. In 1972, he ran for President on an anti-Vietnam War platform against Richard Nixon. One of McCloskey’s enduring legacies is his co-authorship of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. After serving in Congress for 15 years, McCloskey returned to private practice, taking on tough complex cases.

He has served as a Trustee for the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the Population Action Institute, and the U.S. Marine Corps Academy in Harlingen, Texas. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush and elected its first chairman, McCloskey served on the U.S. Commission on National and Community Service from 1990 to 1992.

McCloskey served on the Advisory Council to the American Land Conservancy. He has been at the forefront in helping Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans receive college educations upon their return from duty. He serves on the Board of Advisors of The Fund for Veterans’ Education.

His grandfather and great grandfather were farmers in Merced County and his father was born in Merced. He is married to Helen Hooper McCloskey and has four children by a prior marriage. His son Peter is one of the U.S. prosecutors in the Serbian War Crimes trials at The Hague; his son John works on the family farm in Rumsey, Yolo County, California.

A film was done on the life and times of Pete McCloskey entitled, American Maverick. The film is narrated by the late Paul Newman who said, “Pete McCloskey has spent his life fighting for peace” and “without doubt he will always be leading from the front.”