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William Hoffman

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William Parker Hoffman

"Wild Bill for the Prosecution"

William Parker "Bill" Hoffman, 90, retired Santa Clara County Chief Assistant District Attorney and Navy pilot in 2 wars, died October 4, 2010 in Santa Clara, California.

Bill lived a full and active life of multiple careers and outstanding achievements. Born in Oakland California on May 11,1920, Bill was the first child of Zoe and William Dawson "W.D." Hoffman. His mother was among the earliest women linotype operators. His father, a newspaper reporter, became well known as the author of Western novels in the l930s. Several of his books became silent movies.

Bill graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Forestry in l941, completing his undergraduate study in three years so he could join the war effort. While in school, he met Louise Wylie. Because the Navy would not assign married men to combat stations, Bill and Louise delayed their marriage until the day after he received his posting. They were married for 68 years.

Bill piloted PBY seaplanes in the South Pacific in World War II. His first tour was in 1943 with VP-24, a nine-airplane squadron based in the Solomon Islands near Guadalcanal. His squadron rescued more than 400 sailors and marines from sunken war ships and downed aircraft. In his second tour of duty he was stationed at Majuro in the Marshall Islands, flying reconnaissance missions and bombing raids on enemy airfields.

After World War II Bill continued his service as a pilot in the Naval Reserve and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. Posted with VP-9 to Atsugi Japan, he flew reconnaissance missions off North and South Korea and the Soviet Union. Later, he flew P2Vs out of Alameda Naval Air Station, and ultimately commanded his reserve squadron. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1954.

Bill became a forester when he left active duty in l945. His work with the U.S Forest Service took the growing Hoffman family to Mendocino County and then to several research stations in Mississippi. In 1950 they returned to California and Bill attended Stanford Law School on the G.I. Bill. His classmates included Supreme Court Justices, Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. An outstanding student, Bill declined an invitation to join the Law Review in order to focus on Moot Court competition, where he enjoyed arguing against classmate Rehnquist.

When Bill graduated from Stanford in l952, he and Louise settled into their new home in Los Altos California, where they raised four children. After a short stint with the San Francisco law firm Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, Melvin Hawley, then Santa Clara County Sheriff, persuaded Bill to join the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office as a prosecutor. His ability is reflected in his record of 15 losses out of 350 jury trials. As the office expanded to 90 lawyers he reluctantly reduced his trial work to assume a succession of administrative posts, ultimately becoming Chief Assistant District Attorney, working closely with District Attorney Louis Bergna for nearly three decades. Bill retired in l982 ending a unique period in the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

Bill was well known for having strong principles and acting on them. He was opposed to the death penalty and declined to handle death penalty prosecutions. His military service spoke for itself, but he walked in protests against the Viet Nam war. He championed victim's rights against the rights of criminal defendants. He strongly supported the civil rights movement of the 1960's. In 1964, shortly after three civil rights workers were murdered for registering black Americans to vote, he flew two friends to Jackson Mississippi in a single engine plane, and they volunteered as poll watchers to help enforce equal rights under law despite threats on their lives. Throughout his life, he never backed away from a fight for his principles or against a bully.

Bill had a lifetime passion for the outdoors. He hiked the John Miur Trail as a teenager, and remained an avid backpacker and fly fisherman. He loved Yosemite, calling it the world's greatest cathedral. He climbed many of its formidable peaks and hiked most of its trails. He was an active skier, skin diver, and sailor, spending hours aboard his sailboat Sangaree. He took up hang gliding at age 60 and ran his first marathon at age 62. He delighted in skiing for free on seniors' passes in his 70's.

His love for adventure and travel took him all over the world. In 1985 he and Louise drove a camper across the Soviet Union. As a private pilot, Bill flew from California to Alaska and the East Coast. He often flew the family to their cabin at Lake Tahoe, and continued to fly small airplanes into his mid 80's. His passion for nature, adventure and travel is shared by all of his children.

Bill had the skills to repair his own vehicles, build and repair boats, and he landscaped and built a wing onto his Los Altos home. When Bill was in his early 70's he designed a two-story house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Gualala. After the exterior was built, he and Louise did all the interior construction and finish work themselves.

Bill Hoffman is survived by Louise Wylie Hoffman, his wife of 68 years, his sons William Hoffman Jr., of Tucson, Arizona, Eric Hoffman of Bonny Doon, California, Rod Hoffman of Anchorage, Alaska, his daughter Anne Hoffman of Point Richmond, California, and grandchildren Reid Hoffman, Alyson Hoffman and Taylor Hoffman.

Bill's quick wit, and dry sense of humor, will be missed by all who knew him.

An informal celebration of Bill's life will be held October 22 at 3:00 P.M. at the Bay Caf‚, 1875 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (next to the Palo Alto airport) www.baycaferestaurant.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Bill's memory can be made to: Yosemite Conservancy, 155 Montgomery Street, Suite 1104, San Francisco, CA 94104 415.434.1782 www.yosemiteconservancy.org/

Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave. Montgomery, AL 36104, 334.956.8200 www.splcenter.org/
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Oct. 10, 2010
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