Long before Arnold Schwarzenegger, California had an immigrant lieutenant
governor with an interesting name. Leo T. McCarthy, now 75 years old, moved
with his parents from Auckland, New Zealand, to San Francisco when he was
The T. stands for Tarcissus, a third-century Roman saint who worked on
behalf of imprisoned Christians.
“A nurse persuaded my mother to give me that name, in her weakened
condition.” McCarthy said, adding, “He got stoned to death for his efforts.
It reminds me of my days as speaker.”
McCarthy held that post from 1975 to 1982, back when Schwarzenegger was
“still a bodybuilder, not an actor,” he said. But McCarthy is best known for
his long stint as lieutenant governor. Serving from 1983 to 1995, McCarthy
sometimes joked that his job was to check the obituaries each morning to
make sure he hadn’t become governor. But many remember him as one of the
more effective lieutenant governors in the state’s history. McCarthy said
that his best achievements in the office include trade missions to China and
his push with other members of the University of California Board of Regents
to get the system to divest of investments in South Africa’s apartheid
After leaving Sacramento, McCarthy went into business, serving on the boards
of Linear Technology Corporation, a maker of integrated circuits, and
Forward Funds, a mutual fund.
“For the first time in my life, I did well financially, being on the boards
and making some investments in stock and real estate,” McCarthy said. “We
[with wife Jacqueline] were able to create the McCarthy Family Foundation
and share what we have been lucky enough to make.”
The Foundation, with a $1.5 million endowment, became an “extension” of work
he had done in government, McCarthy said, “helping good people to help
themselves.” But the biggest single recipient is the Leo T. McCarthy Center
for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco
(USF). The Center provides training to USF students who are interested in
working in government. McCarthy also teaches a class, usually on state or
local government, at USF each semester.
On May 22, the Center’s first Sacramento summer-intern class will arrive in
the Capitol to work for 12 weeks in legislative and government offices. The
six students include not only political science majors but also psychology
and business majors.
McCarthy also keeps an eye on politics. He declined to comment on the recent
immigration rallies in Sacramento and around the country, except to note
that he feels the debate about the rallies has so far has been overly
“We’re in the middle of an election year,” he said. “Much of the debate is
colored by that fact.”