Desmond was born in Long Beach, California on April 12, 1915. He was the second oldest son of Walter Desmond (1876–1951), a religious Irish Catholic lawyer from Boston who came to California in 1905 and opened a law office in Long Beach. Walter Desmond was later appointed a Superior Court Judge and was one of the first judges to assign weekend jail time so offenders could work during the week.
Desmond attended Long Beach City College, where, in 1932, he met his future wife, Virginia Slater. He briefly attended California State University, Long Beach, but soon transferred to Cal Berkeley. After graduation, along with Virginia, he attended law school at his father's alma mater, Harvard. In 1937 he and Virginia were married, and eventually had five children.
When World War II began in 1941, Desmond worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office. As a result, he would not have had to go into the service, but he was eager to join and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was in the supply corps, and then he was transferred to fraud investigation. The Navy sent him to Harvard Business School to train him to prepare for disposing of surplus disposal after the war, but never worked in this field. While he was investigating fraud, he traveled a lot. The Desmonds rented a house in Long Beach and Gerald went to New York, where he was stationed. He never went overseas. After the war, he came back to Long Beach and opened a private law practice.
Desmond became active in local government and served on the City Council. He was a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Later in 1960, he was elected City Attorney and served in that position until his death in 1964 at the age of 48.
- Burnett, Claudine. "Gerald Edward Desmond". Press-Telegram. Find a Grave. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Justice Walter Desmond" (PDF). Judicial Council of California. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
- "Interview with Virginia Desmond by Ann Andriesse on January 26, 1982". Long Beach Area History: Community Builders. The Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive, California State University, Long Beach. Interview 1b. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
- "California Delegation to the 1960 Democratic National Convention". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
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