John Gavin was born John Anthony Golenor on April 8, 1931 in Los Angeles, California, USA. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University, where he did senior honors work in Latin American economic history. Having been born to a Mexican mother, he is fluent in the language.
Before entering government full-time, Gavin served with distinction in the U.S. Navy as an air intelligence officer from 1952-1955, pursued concurrent careers in business and the entertainment field and accumulated considerable public service experience.
After his service in the Navy he was offered a screen test and signed with Universal where he was hyped as the next Rock Hudson. Handsome and debonaire John Gavin's first film was Behind the High Wall (1956) and his first major lead was in the classic and much beloved weeper Imitation of Life (1959) opposite Lana Turner. He portrayed Janet Leigh's lover in Psycho and Julius Caesar in Spartacus. He's thought of fondly, especially by female fans, for his role opposite Susan Hayward in the 1961 remake of Fannie Hurst's Back Street. He signed on for the role of James Bond after George Lazenby, but did not play the part. He starred as an agent in the French-Italian co-production O.S.S. 117 Double Agent (1967), and later in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Pussycat, Pussycat I Love You (1970), and Heidi (1979). He also starred in three TV series, "Destry" (1964), "Convoy" (1965) and "Doctors' Private Lives" (1979) and made his Broadway debut in 1973 in Seesaw before leaving show business for politics and to pursue business interests.
From 1961 to 1973, he was a special adviser to the secretary general of the Organization of American States and performed task group work for the Department of State and the Executive Office of the President.
From 1966 to 1973, he also served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild and was guild president from 1971-1973. For the next eight years, he was engaged in business activities, many of which took him to Mexico and other Latin American countries.
John Gavin was nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by President Ronald Reagan in March 1981. He was appointed on May 7, 1981, received credentials on June 5, 1981 and served until June 10, 1986. As ambassador, he headed one of the largest American diplomatic missions in the world, with more than 1,000 American and Mexican employees representing more than a dozen U.S. government agencies in offices throughout Mexico.
After the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, Mr. Gavin and his wife, actress Constance Towers, offered aid to those in need of medical and rehabilitation assistance. Mr. Gavin said, "The operation (rescue work during the Mexico City earthquake of 1985) was successful precisely because and everyone involved worked as a team. Such an immediate and effective response by the Embassy community made a difference where it counted most - in saving lives and relieving pain for those directly affected. We can all be proud of this achievement."
He has co-founded and managed successful ventures in the U.S. and Latin America. After leaving his position as ambassador in the spring of 1986, Gavin was named president of Univisa Satellite Communications, a subsidiary of Univisa, Inc. He is founder/chairman of Gamma Holdings and serves on the boards of: Apex Mortgage Capital, International Wire Holdings; KKFC. Inc; and is a trustee and director of certain Merrill Lynch mutual funds. He is also a member of the Latin America Strategy Board of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. Previously he was a managing director and partner of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (Latin America) as well as a director of Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), Dresser Industries, Claxson and several other major corporations. He serves on several boards, pro bono, including The Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, and the California Community Foundation. Mr. Gavin is a member of the Congressional Policy Advisory Board as a defense and foreign policy expert.
The Century Council is an organization dedicated to fighting alcohol abuse. Its focus is on drunk driving and underage drinking problems and is supported by America's leading distillers. The Honorable John A. Gavin served as The Century Council's founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from May 1991 until December 1994. He then served on the Council's Advisory Board until 1996.
John 'Jack' Gavin is a fifth generation native of Los Angeles. Gavin and his wife, the former Constance Mary Towers, have four children, Cristina and Maria Gavin and Michael and Maureen McGrath.
CLICK HERE to read the mini-article on John Gavin in the June 2003 issue of Biography Magazine.
LISTEN TO John Gavin speak at the Ashbrook Major Issues Lecture Series at the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.
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