Erle Stanley Gardner
By Richard Senate
Perhaps the most famous of BOD&B’s members, Erle Stanley Gardner was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1889, and he came west with his family at the age of ten.
Encouraged by his father to take up the law, he passed the bar at 21 and settled in Oxnard where he became known for his spirited and creative defense of the Chinese community. His notoriety came to the attention of H.F. Orr who, in 1915, invited Gardner to join in what would become today’s Benton, Orr, Duval, & Buckingham.
By the 1920’s Gardner was spending more and more time on his second career, writing short stories for pulp magazines. Many of these tales featured plots revolving around legal problems and obscure laws.
In 1933 Gardner published his first novel: “The Case of the Velvet Claw”. It featured something previously unknown to detective fiction, a crime-solving lawyer. Perry Mason became an instant hit, and by the mid-1930’s Gardner would leave the law to write full time. In all, he would write 82 novels featuring Perry Mason.
Judge Charles Blackstock, son of Orestes Orr’s partner Nehamiah Blackstock, said of Gardner: “I am sure he would have become as famous as a lawyer as he has become famous as a writer…Erle Stanley Gardner possesses one of the most brilliant minds I have ever known…”
As a writer he brought the world of the courtroom to the public in ways that educated and entertained them. Gardner passed away at his Temecula ranch in 1970, shortly after finishing his 150th novel.