PHOENIX — Frank X. Gordon Jr., retired chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, died last week at the Beatitudes Retirement Community in Phoenix, where he lived with his wife, Joan.
He died Jan. 6, three days before what would have been his 91st birthday.
Gordon was best known across the state for presiding over the six-week impeachment trial of Gov. Evan Mecham in 1988. Mecham was removed from office for misuse of public money and obstruction of justice. Gordon also was a former Mohave County lawyer and Superior Court judge in Mohave County before he was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court.
In presiding over Mecham’s impeachment trial, Gordon earned the respect of senators who “understood that he was a leader,” said Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor who has written about the case.
“He did great,” Glennon said. “He was a consummate gentleman and he conducted himself in a way that reflected well on himself, on the bench and the entire legal profession.”
Gordon was an only child, born to Frank X. Gordon and Lucille (Gburek) Gordon on Jan. 9, 1929 in Chicago. Both of his parents were the children of Polish immigrants. The family moved to Kingman in the summer of 1929 when young Frank was only 6 months old. His father, an attorney, purchased a title company and became an insurance agent before becoming one of the most respected lawyers not only in Mohave County but in the state of Arizona.
Frank Jr. grew up in Kingman when the streets were either graded dirt or gravel. In 1939, he and a friend saw a large black touring car pull up in the street. Clark Gable got out and asked the boys where the Methodist Church was. The boys directed him to the church and witnessed the celebrated marriage of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
Gordon attended grammar school and high school in Kingman. He graduated in 1947 from Mohave County Union High School, the only high school at the time in Mohave County, then graduated from Stanford University in 1951 with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology. While at Stanford, Gordon met Joan Gipe on a blind double date in Fresno, California, where Joan was attending Fresno State College. They were married in the Stanford Chapel on Sept. 17, 1950, just before the start of Gordon’s senior year in college.
Gordon obtained his law degree from the University of Arizona, graduating in 1954. After graduating from law school, Gordon and his family returned to Kingman, where he practiced law with his father from 1954 to 1962.
In 1954, the firm of “Gordon & Gordon” was the only multi-person law firm in Mohave County.
Gordon was appointed to the Superior Court in Mohave County in May of 1962 by Gov. Paul Fannin to complete the term of Charles P. Elmer, who had resigned because of ill health. Gordon later won election and and served as a Superior Court judge in Mohave County for 13 years, from 1962 to 1975.
In 1975, Gov. Raul Castro appointed Gordon to the Arizona Supreme Court. From 1975 to 1987, Gordon was an associate justice and then vice chief justice before serving as chief jutice from 1987 to 1992.
His first project was to create the Commission on the Courts. He appointed a 150-member commission to make an in-depth study of the courts in Arizona. Before Gordon left the court, 80% of the commission’s recommendations had been accomplished, either by court rule or legislative enactment.
After retiring from the Arizona Supreme Court, Gordon joined the Phoenix firm of Roush, McCracken & Guerrero. In 1994, Gordon was asked by the U.S. State Department to be part of a team of two lawyers to visit the country of Belarus, to meet with a committee of parliament, to evaluate the country’s constitution as it transitioned from a totalitarian socialist state to a democracy.
In 2016, Gordon’s autobiography “From A Boy With A Horse To A Man With A Gavel,” was published. On the back cover of the book Gordon said: “I have had a wonderful, remarkable and rewarding life. I have had the greatest gifts that God could have given me — good health, wonderful parents, the unconditional love of a wife whose beauty and intellect I have seen no equal in this world, children who have grown into adults who have solid marriages and who are respected in the community in which they live, grandchildren who have given me great pleasure and will in the future. What more can a man ask for?”
Gordon is survived by his wife, Joan, his children, Trey and Candy, three grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and many friends.
Memorial services will be held today at First United Methodist Church in Phoenix. Graveside services will be held at noon Friday at Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman.