He was born Sept. 1, 1925, in Lawrence, Mass. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 during World War II, earned a Purple Heart, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and helped liberate Nazi concentration camps. When he left the Army he pursued his education at Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1950 and earned his law degree in 1953. He moved to California and began to practice law the next year. In 1954, he also married Marie Therese Fox, a magna cum laude graduate of Radcliff.
He headed the San Francisco Foreign Policy Association and served as executive secretary to Gov. Pat Brown from 1960 to 1961. He then returned to the California Attorney General's office, serving as chief deputy attorney general from 1962 to 1971, before going into private practice. He was the Democratic candidate in the 1970 race for state attorney general and lost narrowly to Evelle Younger. In the 1970s he was a founder of the Doctors Co., now the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.
Mr. O'Brien and his wife were avid travelers, visiting at least 100 countries. He was a collector of wine, military prints and books, and bred award-winning Arabian horses. He retired from law practice in 2004.
He was preceded in death by his brother Joe O'Brien of San Francisco; and sister Mary O'Brien Aton of Louisville, Ky. He is survived by his wife Marie; children Devin, Brennan and Erin O'Brien, their spouses Linda, Karla Leibowitz and Kevin McKenzie; and nine grandchildren. A celebration of his life was held Monday, Sept. 8, at the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church. Donations may be made to Community Solutions, a human services, nonprofit organization, P.O. Box 546, Morgan Hill 95038.
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