Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 | 2 a.m.
While his father and four brothers practiced law in Southern Nevada, George Foley Sr. shunned the family business for a somewhat lucrative career as a Las Vegas bellhop.
It wasn’t until one of his brothers, during a family reunion, teased George for his career of hauling guests’ luggage to their rooms at the old Desert Inn — albeit often for generous tips — that George decided to make tracks for Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
Foley dedicated himself to learning the law and, at age 33, graduated at the top of his class in 1956. He returned to Las Vegas and like many in his prominent family carved out a career as a local attorney.
George Foley Sr., the former Clark County district attorney and member of one of Southern Nevada’s most storied families, died Sunday night in Las Vegas. He was 88.
Services for the Las Vegas resident of 82 years are pending.
“George Foley was a member of one of the most prominent legal families in our state’s history. He was an accomplished lawyer and a dedicated public servant who represented his family, friends and state with honor,” U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime friend, said in a statement Monday. “Nevada is a better place because of George Foley.”
George, like most of the Foley family, was a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party.
Foley, who served as Clark County district attorney from 1958 to 1960, was the son of Judge Roger T. Foley, for whom the Foley Federal Building downtown is named, and the grandson of attorney Thomas L. Foley. He is also the brother of late federal Judge Roger D. Foley and local attorneys Thomas Foley, Joe Foley and John Foley.
The Foley family left Ireland and came to the United States during the potato famine of the 1840s.
Thomas L. Foley initially settled in Chicago, where he was a boxing promoter as well as a lawyer. In 1963, George followed in his grandfather’s pugilistic footsteps by serving as a commissioner on the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
The Foley family settled in Goldfield in 1906. George’s father, Roger T. Foley, moved there in 1910 to serve as a lawyer apprentice to his father. Shortly after that, he sent for his future wife, Helen Drummond. George was born to Roger and Helen in July 1922 in Goldfield.
When the husband of one of Roger’s clients threatened to kill Roger for filing divorce proceedings against him, Roger and Helen, for their family’s protection, hid a large revolver underneath George’s mattress in his baby carriage as they strolled down the streets of Goldfield.
George Foley Sr. moved with his family to Las Vegas in 1928 and they lived for many years in a humble rural home on California Avenue, a little south of what is now Charleston Boulevard. There, they raised cattle, goats and chickens.
He graduated in 1940 from Las Vegas High School, where he was a standout on the varsity basketball team for three years.
Foley worked at the BMI plant for three years and served in the Navy for four years during World War II, working as an aviation radio operator for the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and Guam.
Foley was elected Clark County’s district attorney in 1958, two years after becoming a member of the Nevada State Bar. He spent most of his career practicing family law and serving as a criminal defense attorney.
George’s late brother Thomas served 11 years as a Clark County district judge. His late brother Joe was a University of Nevada regent. John, the youngest and last surviving brother, was a member of the Nevada Senate.
George also was the father of federal Magistrate George Foley Jr. Another of George’s sons, Todd Foley, a Republican, worked in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush and now is an attorney.
In addition to his brother John and sons George Jr., and Todd, George Foley Sr. is survived by his companion, Kay Houston; sons James, Paul and Edward; daughters Leslie, Angela and Jessica; a stepson Craig; and several grandchildren.
Sun librarian Rebecca Clifford-Cruz contributed to this report.