Gary Gayton, affectionately known as “GG,” is a man for all seasons: In the spring of his life, Gayton was a scholar and champion athlete; in his summer, Gayton was nationally renowned as a federal prosecutor and civil rights advocate; and now, as he elegantly begins his move into fall, he has become the consummate political strategist and the catalyst for the careers of many state and federal officials and judicial candidates.
A Seattle native, Gayton graduated from Garfield High School with academic honors in 1951. While at Garfield, he was the Student Body President and an All-City Miler on Garfield’s City Championship Track Team. Upon graduation, Gayton received the first Garfield Alumni Academic Scholarship to attend the University of Washington (“UW”). While at UW, he lettered four consecutive years on the Varsity Track Team, received an athletic scholarship, won the Northwest Cross Country Championship and was the first African-American to captain a varsity sport in UW’s history. When Gayton graduated in 1955, with a B.A. in political science, he became the first in his family to obtain a college degree.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Gayton went on to graduate from Gonzaga University’s School of Law in 1962. That year his professional career skyrocketed when he was appointed as the first African-American Assistant U.S. Attorney by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. While serving in that capacity, Gayton presented the nation’s first federal prosecution involving NCAA college basketball score fixing at Seattle University and sued the state of Washington to give Northwest Native Americans the right to sell fish off of their reservations.
In 1965, Gayton went into private practice and formed the partnership of Stern, Gayton, Neubauer and Brucker. As a private practitioner, Gayton gained even greater fame for his courageous representation of unpopular causes and his refusal to accept the status quo for minority and women citizens. Among other groups, he represented the Black Panthers and Black students protesting for their First Amendment rights, the Black Athletes at the UW protesting for equality in UW’s athletic programs, and anti-Vietnam War activists. He also successfully represented Claude Harris when his appointment from Captain to Battalion Chief was challenged because it was based on the City’s selective certification program for women and minorities. See Maehren v. City of Seattle, 92 Wn. 2d 480 (1979), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 938 (1981). In 1977, Gayton was appointed Special Assistant to the United States Secretary of Transportation, Brock Adams. Gayton served as Department of Transportation (“DOT”) White House Liaison and, at the urging of the Congressional Black Caucus, was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as acting Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. While at DOT, Gayton was the architect of the Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise Program that President Carter requested all departments in the government adopt in his 1978 domestic policy speech. Since 1979, Gayton has been “of counsel” with several law firms in Seattle and Washington, D.C.
He is currently of counsel with the law firm of Cusack Knowles Ferguson P.L.L.C. Gayton has also been an investment banker since 1985, and is now a Senior Vice President of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., the largest minority and female bond underwriting firm in the nation. As a lawyer, former high-ranking federal official and investment banker, Gayton became highly sought after for his advice and counsel by those seeking political office and political organizations at the federal and state level. Gayton was asked to serve as the Finance Chair of the Clinton-Gore 1992 Presidential Campaign for the state of Washington and was later appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Transition Team in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Gayton was appointed by the Chairman of the Democratic Party to serve on the Platform Committee at the 1996 Democratic convention. Recently, Gayton was named Chairman of the nine-member Senior Advisory Board of the Ninth Federal Judicial Circuit. At the state level, Gayton served on Transition Teams when Gary Locke became King County Executive and when he later became Governor. Gayton served as LMBA’s President on three separate occasions.