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2011 History Makers Keith Sorenson and Jim Fox

Every year, the San Mateo County Historical Association hosts a History Makers Dinner that highlights an individual and/or family of San Mateo County who has made significant contributions to California history and beyond.

Keith Sorenson and Jim Fox’s combined 57 years of work as District Attorneys for San Mateo County exemplify the commitment of the San Mateo County DA’s office to uphold the law, fight corruption and keep San Mateo County safe.
Youngest of four children, Keith C. Sorenson was born on September 4, 1921, in Elsinore, Utah. Raised on a farm, Keith had to get up at 4:00 a.m. each morning to milk the cows and collect eggs. According to Keith, “there’s nothing better than living on a farm. If you ever really work on a farm, anything else you ever do seems easy.” After High School, he was awarded a scholarship to the University of Utah (where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees). While attending college, Keith met his wife, Maxine Swinson. With wages being low in Utah, Keith moved his wife and young daughter to Redwood City for better opportunity.

After passing the California Bar exam, Keith struggled to find work. Eventually his persistence paid off, and he was offered a job at a prestigious law firm in San Mateo. During his time at Kirkbride , Wilson, Harzfield, Wallace, Keith became a specialist in municipal law and made a positive impression on the County Board of Supervisors. In 1949, the Board recommended Keith for a position in the San Mateo County DA’s office. As Chief Deputy, Keith played a major role in hiring and supervising a young Stanford graduate, Sandra Day O’Connor. She later became the first woman ever appointed as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1953, when Keith’s predecessor, Louis Dematteis, was named Superior Court Judge, Keith was appointed to be the new District Attorney.

As the new DA, Keith promised to do his best to emulate Dematteis’ commitment to ridding San Mateo County of gambling, prostitution and illegal-bookmaking. Keith maintained this promise until his retirement in 1983, when Jim Fox took over and continued the legacy.

James P. Fox was raised in Half Moon Bay. At the age of 8, he was inspired to pursue a career in law. In preparation for his future vocation, Jim attended Serra High School in San Mateo. After graduation, Jim went on to the University of San Francisco, where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees. Much like Keith Sorenson, Jim was no stranger to hard work; he paid his way through the University of San Francisco working a number of odd jobs. In 1970, after graduating from law school and passing the bar, Jim began his career in the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office, under Keith Sorenson. Fours years later, Jim left the DA’s office to pursue private practice. During that time, Jim also served as the City Attorney of Half Moon Bay and was a member of the Private Defender Panel for the San Mateo County Bar Association.

On January 3, 1983, Jim returned to the San Mateo County DA’s office as the District Attorney. During his 28 years serving as DA, the office prosecuted several high-profile cases, including the infamous repressed memories of the Susan Nason murder, the Billionaire Boys Club, and the theft of an iPhone 4 prototype. In addition to his time spent as District Attorney, Jim has been active in both the California District Attorneys’ Association and the National District Attorneys’ Association (serving as President and Vice President, respectively).
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