BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Tim Lemucchi was one of the last links to a uniquely colorful era — the second half of the 20th century, when Bakersfield was evolving from a sleepy farm town into the bustling, intriguing place it would become.
So, when Bakersfield lost Lemucchi, the decorated defense attorney and local history aficionado, Wednesday morning at the age of 84 while he was on a bike ride, it lost a piece of its past.
Lemucchi, the grandson of Italian immigrants, was born on May 5, 1937, and attended East High School and Stanford University. He was just shy of his 24th birthday when he accompanied Leonard Winters, investigator for legendary local defense attorney Morris Chain to the Mojave desert ranch of Spade Cooley, the famous western swing recording star who had murdered his wife — and apparently confessed to it. And a young, new defense attorney was born. Lemucchi started his own practice in 1966 and was involved in more than 250 jury trials, including some of Bakersfield’s most sensational cases. To name two, that of tire store owner William Robert Tyack, accused of killing two of his neighbors on an isolated mountain road in 1982, and Offord Rollins, the Wasco star athlete accused of killing his girlfriend in 1991.
But he had a life outside the courtroom. This television commercial for Chain, Younger, Lemucchi, Cohn and Stiles gives us a glimpse of one — Lemucchi was a dedicated triathlete. He also climbed Mount McKinley and Mount Whitney. And, as he suggested in a 1993 television commercial, he brought that dedication to the courtroom.
“I prepare for court the way I prepare for a triathlon — lots of hard work,” he said to prospective civil plaintiffs in need of legal help. “Because to my clients, it’s not a game.”
Lemucchi meant what he said, according to Bakersfield attorney Craig Edmonston, worked alongside Lemucchi on and off for years and benefitted from his counsel. They developed almost a father-son relationship.
“Tim Lemucchi was a legal legend and icon in Kern County,” Edmonston said. “He was a champion of the underdog. In the courtroom he was calm, understated, prepared and tenacious.”
Lemucchi was an adventurer, a man’s man — in fact Edmonston says Lemucchi once told him his preference would be to die in an avalanche.
Lemucchi was also an author — having written three books on local history — including one on Luigi’s, the restaurant — still immensely popular — founded in 1906 by his grandparents, Joe and Emelia Lemucchi.
Gino Valpredo, the son of Lemucchi’s sister Tonia, is one of a half-dozen family members still running the restaurant, bar, deli and grocery in Old Town Kern.
“What a great man,” Valpredo said. “One of the great patriarchs of our family. Great human being.”
Bakersfield attorney David Cohn, who worked with Lemucchi for 20 years, says his former partner was committed to his hometown.
“He was a great friend, he was a great partner,” Cohn said. “I have nothing but respect and really fond memories from Tim.”
Lemucchi is survived by his wife Margaret, daughter Lisa and a large extended family. Funeral arrangements are pending.