Distinguished Lawyer Memorial Honoree

Mr. James Dawe Esq

James R. Dawe was a school teacher in inner-city Los Angeles which made Jim realize the importance of livable communities. For this reason, he moved to San Diego to gain the skills needed to develop strong and vibrant communities, graduating with honors from the University of San Diego School of Law and obtaining a Master’s in City Planning from San Diego State University.
 Jim spent his 42-year law career at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, contributing as a partner, the firm’s CFO, and Chair of the Land Use and Environmental Law Group. He had a prolific land use practice, specializing in complicated matters that required appearances before government bodies. Jim was particularly proud of the communities he helped create, including Rancho San Diego, Carmel Mountain Ranch, the reimagined Liberty Station, and downtown San Diego revitalization. He was a leader in the legal community and especially prided himself on being a positive mentor.

Jim devoted endless energy to causes he was passionate about, particularly public libraries. He saw libraries as the great equalizer and believed they contributed to his success. He served as Chair for the San Diego Library Commission, state and national library boards, the successful statewide California Library Bond Act of 2000, and was the Founding Chair of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. One of his proudest moments was opening the new San Diego Central Library in 2013.

Beyond his professional and civic achievements was Jim’s reputation. He was well respected for his honesty, intelligence, generosity, good-natured charm, and constant sense of humor. But above everything else was his devotion to his family, his wife Mary, and their three children, Emily, Jeremy, and Sarah.