February 2002

William J. Magavern II -
“Mr. Buffalo”

by Joseph RADDER

magavern.jpg (13656 bytes)

Of all the people alive and well today, nobody fits the nickname “Mr. Buffalo” better than Bill Magavern.

William J. Magavern II has lived within sight of Elmwood Avenue his entire life. He and his wife Louise also enjoy their summers in Clarksburg, as did their families before them. This charming summer community in the hills of Eden is only 30 minutes from Bill’s Rand Building office.

Bill Magavern graduated from Dartmouth College in 1956 and U.B. Law School in 1962. He fondly remembers a spring break, driving to Florida and flying to Nassau. The air fare was only $22. While there he bought 200 coconut straw hats with madras bands. Upon returning to Dartmouth he sold them all in less than two hours, more than paying for his vacation.

One would think this demonstrated an aptitude for retailing, but law was in his blood, and so upon graduation he joined the law firm now known as Magavern, Magavern & Grimm, L.L.P.

Magavern, Magavern & Grimm, L.L.P. is the oldest law firm in Buffalo, founded in the 1820s by Jeremiah Ford. Bill’s grandfather William J. Magavern, who later became a leading attorney for Canadian gold-mining interests, was admitted to the practice in 1893. Bill’s late father, Samuel D. Magavern, led the firm for fifty years. Bill and his brother Jim, a respected municipal and health law attorney, are senior partners in the downtown firm today. Bill specializes in corporate law, real estate, wills, trusts and estates.

Bill’s first exposure to the profession came at age 14 when he worked as an office boy, allowing him to buy his first car, a Model “A” Ford Roadster for $25. Since then he has developed an extensive car collection. His favorites are the first Ford V-8’s, from 1932 to 1937. A year ago, he participated in the Great American Road Race, driving an antique car from Boston to Peoria. Actually a rally, the participants attempt to pass check points as closely as possible to designated times.

Bill serves on numerous boards of directors including the Mentholatum Company, Niagara Blower Company, Oden Corporation, Petroleum Sales and Service, Inc. and Metal Cladding Inc. He is chairman and a long time director of Kissing Bridge Corporation. His entire family skis, a love he also inherited from his parents and passed on to his children and grandchildren.

Bill has served as a director of Upstate New York Transplant Services, Inc. and has served as chairman of the Buffalo State College Foundation, Inc., president of the Erie County Mental Health Association, and president of the International Institute. He was an incorporator and original director of the Allentown Association, and in past years restored many Allentown properties. He formed Johnson Park Restoration Corporation with others in the 1960s to save most of the Johnson Park houses then scheduled for demolition.

Bill has three daughters and four grandchildren living in Vermont, California and Colorado. His wife, Louise Morris Magavern, is also a native of Buffalo and the Elmwood Avenue area. She and Bill both attended the School of Practice at Buffalo State Teachers’ College. In other words, they’ve known each other since childhood.

His interest in the arts is extensive as well. He is a past member of the Buffalo Arts Commission and the Erie County Cultural Resources Board. He has served as an officer and been director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for 31 consecutive years, longer than any other living officer or director. He is a former director of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, where he is now co-chair of the Project Steering Committee, actively involved in the planning and funding for the Center’s new building to be constructed at Elmwood and Rockwell Drive.

When asked if he plans to retire, he is quick to say, “No; after retirement the phone never rings,” thereby qualifying him as “Forever Young and Active”.

The Magaverns do plan to take more time off for travel, especially for winter sailing trips “to break the back of winter”, as Bill is fond of saying. For quality of life, however, he proclaims there is no better place to live anywhere than Buffalo.

Bill Magavern’s love of Buffalo and the many ways he has helped his city certainly qualify him as “Mr. Buffalo”.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.


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