Michael Lantaff Gallagher, loving husband, father and grandfather, died peacefully on October 26, 2022 at his home in Phoenix. He was 78 years old. It is no exaggeration to say that with his passing, Arizona has lost one of its legendary leaders and favorite sons.
Gallagher was born in Le Mars, Iowa on April 14, 1944, and grew up in Los Angeles with his parents, Bill and Ellie, and his younger brother, Pat. Mike was a baseball superstar- a Southern California phenom with a golden arm and a singular focus: to play in the Big Leagues. Upon graduating from high school, Gallagher had scholarship offers to pitch for virtually every top college program in the country, not to mention pro contract offers from the Dodgers and the Yankees, among others. He accepted a full-ride to Arizona State University, where he played on the school’s first team to win the College World Series. After graduating from ASU, Gallagher signed with the Kansas City Athletics and played pro ball for a few years, though in truth he got by on grit and toughness; an earlier shoulder injury had effectively ended his playing days and turned that golden arm to brass. His only dream dashed, Big Mike dusted himself off then set his sights on new horizons.
In 1967, Gallagher entered Arizona State University’s freshly-formed law school, and was elected its second ever student body president. Mike put himself through school by scouting full-time for the New York Mets and was a member of the organization when it won the 1969 World Series. In 1970, Gallagher graduated from law school and joined the storied Phoenix law firm of Snell & Wilmer, a place he remained until 1978, when he and friend Mike Kennedy left to co-found their own storied Phoenix law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy.
Over the course of the next 40 years, Gallagher would go on to become one of the most trusted and sought-after voices in Arizona on matters of business and sports law. He represented athletes, franchises, leagues, and cities, and had a major role at the negotiating table when the Arizona Cardinals’ moved from St. Louis, as well as when Major League Baseball expanded to include the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Professional Football, Chairman of the Phoenix Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Professional Sports, Founding Director of the Phoenix Metropolitan Sports Foundation, and the Founding Director of the Maricopa County Sports Authority. He showed up on nearly every “best lawyer/who’s who” list around, received distinguished achievement awards from the State Bar of Arizona and ASU Law School, and argued in front of the United States Supreme Court. As a business advisor he was equally accomplished, having served on the Board of Directors for numerous public and private companies, including Arizona Public Service Company, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, SunCor Development Company, Werner Enterprises, Omaha World Herald Company, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and U-Haul.
Arguably more impressive than his list of professional accomplishments is Big Mike’s legacy of public service. He was a Trustee of the Peter Kiewit Foundation, Chairman of Valley of the Sun YMCA, Chairman of the ASU Sun Angel Foundation, Director of Phoenix Suns Charities, and a Life Member of the Phoenix Thunderbirds. He’s a recipient of the YMCA’s Distinguished Service Award, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix Champion of the Year Award, and was named one of Phoenix’s Legendary Leaders by the Phoenix Business Journal.
Mike Gallagher was also a cowboy. He rode horses, roped steers, drank whiskey, and used a spittoon. But what really made him a cowboy wasn’t what he did, so much as what he was. He was honest and hard working, plain spoken, fair dealing, and tough. He valued integrity, disdained injustice, and championed the underprivileged. Mike was a member of numerous cowboy organizations, including his beloved Charlie Russell Riders (President), the Rancheros Visitadores, the Verde Vaqueros (Director Emeritus), and the Maricopa County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse (President). His very favorite place to be was with his family on his ranch in Montana.
Mike is survived by Barbara- his wife of 51 years, his son Sean and wife Roxann, his daughter Ryanne and husband Jose, granddaughters Lovey, Riley, and Elliot, and grandson Michael, and his brother Patrick and his wife Lynne Gallagher. A celebration of Mike Gallagher’s remarkable life is expected sometime next spring.
Mike Gallagher was a leader, a mentor, a role model, and a friend to many and he will be deeply missed. In lieu of flowers or donations, his family asks that you please do a stranger a kindness. Big Mike would have liked that.
The family will hold a celebration of Mike’s life on Saturday, April 15, 2023 at 2:30 P.M. at Chase Field, 401 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004. The dress attire for this event is casual dress. Those who wish to attend are requested to RSVP to (602) 840-5600 with the Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home Staff.
Where I never actually had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Gallagher on a personal basis, his company Gallagher & Kennedy has been an amazing support to my career for decades. It hurts my heart that such an amazing man is gone. But he will not be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and employees.
Rest in Peace Mike, you were agreat Fraternity Brother. Phi Alpha
Mike was a great guy. He was the High School star and big brother who became bigger than life in bringing sports to Phoenix and Arizona. He touched many lives and they were all better for it. Play on Mike.
Mike was a good-hearted guy, and the obituary writer captured him perfectly. I was in that first ASU Law School class, which because of the circumstances was fairly small and very close, so spent a lot of time with Mike for those three years. I then went off to DC but would run into Mike periodically, and while most of us change, he was always the same great guy. He had a wonderful life and lived it to the fullest, both accomplishing and giving; hard to beat that. RIP.
Barbara and Family. It’s hard to believe someone so vibrant and so giving to everything he touched will no longer be with us. I’m so sorry and will be thinking of you. This is a major loss to our city. Lots of prayers to you and your whole family. Love
Dear Barbara and Family,
I loved Mike and have such fond memories of him during the law school years. What a fun, GOOD man. This world was indeed a better place because of Mike.
To you all I send sympathy and love. To you, Barbara, I send a big hug. Love, Lexie Siegal
I was truly fortunate to have crossed paths with Mike over the years through my time responsible for working “Professional sports” for the City of Phoenix. We shared many meetings and discussions together as the then “America West Arena” project unfolded and almost any other City of Phoenix sports-related project commanded attention. Although sports was our common denominator, my respect and admiration for Mike came from how Mike handled his profession as an Attorney. Mike just exuded RESPECT in whatever he did and he was one of the most reputable Attorney’s I ever had the privilege to work with. I always got a chuckle seeing him again over the years sitting in his Diamondback seats behind home plate. God bless you Mike and thanks for the opportunity to see you at work in person. My absolute sincere condolences are wished for his wife and family.
Please share when Mike’s services will be held. I have fond memories of Michael Gallagher and Mike Kennedy when they were just launching their firm and with Snell and Wilmer. Wonderful story of our trial involving baseball. Mike G got Rick Monday and other experts to testify! It dazzled the jury! We learned a lot during that trial and ended with a defense verdict! It’s what happened during the trial that is so amazing! My heartfelt condolences to your family! Michael and Mike were highly respected and honorable men! I’m so honored to have known them.
What a privilege it was for me to work at G&K with Mike – he was funny and irreverent and larger than life. He was an amazingly kind man, always had time to stop and tell me a story, and I am so very sorry for your loss. You have our heartfelt condolences.
Deb and Wes
Steve & Charlotte Scott
Mike was truly a good man. He will be missed by many. Our sincere condolences to Barbara and Mike’s entire family.
Each day before he left the office during those early years , Mike would throw open the door to my office and boom out: “Well, kid, what did you learn today?” If he asked me that question just one more time, I would say: “Quite a lot–thanks!”
Barb, Sean, and Ryanne, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
RIP Condolences to the family.
Sorry for your loss, Pat
Helene S. Fenlon
Mike was-hands down-the best boss I ever had. Despite his larger than life personality, he was the “salt of the earth,” and had the rare skill of putting life’s triumphs and defeats in perspective. Barbara and family, please accept my sincere condolences.
With great admiration,
Barbara & Family- Sorry to learn of your loss. Mike was always kind and willing to help from our first meeting when I was a student at ASU Law School. We later became business associates while I was the General Counsel for SunCor and he was on our Board. He always provided great advice and counsel. Most importantly, Mike lead by example in the Community. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
The Hallman Family
Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. Our hearts go out to the Gallagher family.
Peggy (Palmer) & Terry DeWald
Sincere sympathy in your loss. May fun & loving memories help you through this most difficult time. Know that you are in our thoughts & hearts.
Betsy and John Gruber
Our love and condolences to you and your entire family, Barbara. We didn’t know Mike as well as you, but we understand how special he was having chosen you as his wife. We cherish all our memories of you and Mike from our times at Marcos de Niza and living in Tempe.
Betsy and John Gruber