SAN DIEGO — San Diego lost a philanthropist and one of its most colorful characters Feb. 13, when George “King” Stahlman died peacefully at his home surrounded by family. It is noteworthy that he passed away on a Friday the 13th, the same day his ship was sunk during World War II.
“King” was born on June 26, 1923, in Hollywood. Most of his childhood was spent between Hollywood and St. Joseph, Mo. Those years during the Depression helped to form a lot of the strength and drive that made him a success in his bail bond business.
In the spring of 1941, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Navy and was shipped off to fight in World War II with the Pacific Fleet. On Nov. 13, 1942, his ship was torpedoed and sunk at Guadalcanal. Filled with shrapnel, bleeding and near death, he spent nearly 14 hours in the water with a few surviving shipmates surrounded by sharks before being rescued by the Marines. He was transferred to New Zealand to recover form his injuries and received a Purple Heart for bravery and the wounds he sustained.
After the war, “King” returned to Los Angeles to work with his father, a well-known district attorney and representative to many of the Hollywood stars of the 1940s and 1950s. It was not long before he was drawn to the bail bond business and the characters and gangsters of that era. He left Los Angeles to start his own bail bond business in San Diego in 1946.
“King’s” motto from his early days was “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.” This served him well in the fiercely competitive bail bond business. He has built a family bail bond business on a foundation of integrity and honesty. His newest singing jingle “It is better to know me and not need me, than to need me and not know me” has become iconic in San Diego.
He ran for mayor of San Diego in the 1970s — even flying an advertising plane over the top of one of his competitors while they were speaking at a rally. He also ran a very successful California golf tour in the 1990s, which included another colorful character, Evel Knievel.
The King was known as a great philanthropist in the San Diego community, supporting many causes to benefit children and military families.
“They broke the mold when they made ‘King’ Stahlman,” his son George Stahlman Jr. said. “San Diego has sadly lost an icon, a legend, a philanthropist and truly a colorful character.”