Dave Oliphant - McCarthy Service Award Recipient

David J. Oliphant ---- 2023 Recipient


David Oliphant was born April 14, 1935, and raised in London, England, where he received his early education through high school to age 16.  For two years he worked as a clerk/messenger on the Sunday Graphic, a London newspaper, and for Legion Publishing Company an advertising statistics firm.  He then served in the Royal Air Force from 1953 -1955.  His father and mother were publicists and journalists in England, representing well-known stage personalities there including Sophie Tucker, and Nat King Cole, among others.  In the early 1950’s, David’s older sister Joy and his parents moved to California.  In 1955, he immigrated to the USA, joining his family. In 1956, he earned a high school diploma from Hollywood High School attending at night. He worked for his new brother-in-law Hugo Maisnik at Myer Show Print performing clerical work and typing part time while attending Los Angeles City College.

In 1959, David earned a BA degree in Education from CSUN (then San Fernando Valley State College) and taught elementary school in the Los Angeles City School District for seven years.  Then, in 1965, attending night law school he earned a JD degree from Loyola University of Los Angeles Law School.  He was admitted to the California Bar in January 1966. In June 1966, David was hired by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office as a Deputy City Attorney.  He started in the Criminal Division of the office and then switched to the Civil Division where he first worked on personnel and civil service matters, building and safety issues, wrote legislation and opinions, and advised the Animal Regulation Department.   He then switched to the Revenue and Taxation Section of the office where successful litigation he handled included winning an appellate decision upholding the right of the City of Los Angeles to regulate non-university activities taking place on California State University property.   Specifically, the university licensed Circus Vargas to conduct an annual circus on State University grounds as a college fundraiser.  Contrary to the State College position, the University did not provide immunity from City’s license regulations when the college was acting in a proprietary fashion.  

In 1974, David switched to the Legal Division of the Department of Water and Power where he advised the Retirement Board, the DWP Health Division, and worked on DWP finance revenue bond funding, and among other things assisted on groundwater rights litigation.  A highlight of David’s DWP career was in 1978, when he argued the case of Marie Manhart v. City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power before the United States Supreme Court.   While the Supreme Court ruled that the actuarially based practice of requiring a higher retirement contribution from female than male employees because women as a group live longer than men violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Court refused to award any refund of past contributions to the plaintiffs because to do so would upset the funding of this and other retirement plans that were similarly actuarially funded.     

While working at the DWP, David enjoyed being an active member of the DWP Speakers Club, and with the assistance of representatives from PG&E, Edison, and MWD, conducted four public utility speakers conferences designed to enhance the quality of public utility speakers.  David retired from the DWP an Assistant City attorney in April 1995.

Outside the work environment, David was an active member of Temple Beth Torah of the San Fernando Valley for many years, serving as Temple President for two different terms 1975-77 and 1987-89.  

David joined the Water and Power Associates in 1998 and shortly became a member of the Board of Directors.   After a year, he took on the task of editing the Associates newsletter.  In 2000, David was elected as President of the Associates, serving in that capacity for two years.  Dorothy Fuller became Editor of the newsletter, which she continued to edit for 20 years, and for a while was Board Secretary, too. With Dorothy editing the newsletter, David took the position of Board Secretary, keeping the Board’s minutes and working with the Associates Treasurer on Membership.   Thereafter, he continued to work as Board Secretary and Membership chair.   After ending his term as President, David, together with Dorothy Fuller, Ken Downey, Leval Lund, and Ahn Thu Pham formed a committee which worked, and continues to do so under the able leadership of President Jerry Gewe, to encourage the DWP to create a DWP brick-and-mortar history museum and to improve preservation of DWP historical artifacts and records.  DWP management supported the museum development, obtaining a site for the facility in the El Pueblo Historical Monument on Olvera Street and enlisting the assistance of the County Natural History Museum with the museum formation. The museum creation has been delayed due to the need for structural earthquake improvement for the El Pueblo building.  At the suggestion of Board member Abe Hoffman, a professional historian, David raised the idea of having a virtual museum on the Associates website.  Jack Feldman, the Associates webmaster, enthusiastically took on the job of establishing the virtual museum and with that task Jack has built a successful website that is viewed daily around the world and brings the Associates new members from a wide community.

In 2022, David resigned from the Associates Board but continued to work as a backup Assistant Secretary to the Board’s current outstanding Secretary, Robert Yoshimura, and continues to assist as a proofreader in the production of the newsletter.  

David met his wife Rita in 1956 at the bus stop outside Los Angeles City College where they were both attending classes, he at City College, she at LA State College.  They were married in April 1957.  Rita has a BA in Education and was a teacher and a travel agent.  They had four children, in order: Jonathan, who has a J.D. from University of San Francisco and retired recently from the San Diego District Attorney’s office;  Kevin, who has a B.A. in Psychology from CSUN and is an administrator in an independent workers compensation insurance adjusters firm;  daughter Shana, who passed away in December from ovarian cancer, had an A.A. degree from College of the Canyons, was a licensed beautician, a public-school music teacher, an accounting firm bookkeeper, and a ready volunteer in church and community theater activities; and youngest daughter Judi, who is a Radio Personality syndicated on iHeaRt radio around the country.  These four children produced seven grandchildren, in the following order, with Felice (Shana and Jim Wurst) with an MA degree, a schoolteacher, Joni (Jonathan and Ione Oliphant) with a BA degree, Tammy (Shana and Jim Wurst) with an MS degree in Chemistry, a chemistry teacher at Long Beach State University, Erin (Kevin and Leslie Oliphant) with an MFS degree a forensic scientist with the NIH, Jamie (Kevin and Leslie Oliphant) a Registered Nurse, Shira (Judi and Mike Diamant) with a JD degree, a lawyer in private practice, and the one grandson, Leonardo (Judi and Mike Diamant), with a BA in Music in his last year completing an MA in Music looking to teach music and compose.

Jamie, the nurse, (Jamie and Ethan Worcester) has two children, David and Rita’s great grandchildren, Emma, and Jack, both in elementary school.

Note: As mentioned above, David Oliphant is known for pleading a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978. Click HERE to see more. 



Distinguished Service Award Recipients


* * * * *