As he campaigned for attorney general in 1960, touring Massachusetts with his family in a 23-foot aluminum recreational vehicle, George Michaels had harsh words for the potential corrupting influence of campaign contributions.
Turning down contributions from what he saw as questionable sources, he said he was surprised “to find so much tainted money available.’’
“I may have been naïve, but I never before realized it was as powerful as it is,’’ Mr. Michaels, the Republican candidate, told the Globe in October 1960. “I propose to do something about it if elected.’’
Though Mr. Michaels lost the election to the incumbent Democrat, Attorney General Edward J. McCormack Jr., family and friends recalled him as someone who throughout his career had the instincts of a businessman and the popularity of a politician.
Mr. Michaels died of respiratory failure March 7 in the Naples community hospital in Naples, Fla. He was 88, had lived in Naples, and formerly resided in Boston and Westport.
After the election, Mr. Michaels practiced law with the firm Michaels, Adler and Wilcon. He later had his own practice and also served on various boards.
“He didn’t win that election, but the politician remained in him,’’ said his daughter Faith of Brookline.
A few years before running for office, Mr. Michaels served as an assistant attorney general. His boss, Attorney General George Fingold, died in 1958 just as he was beginning a campaign for governor.
In June 1960, Mr. Michaels secured the Republican nomination for attorney general in a landslide victory at the state convention in Worcester.
Born in Boston, Mr. Michaels was the youngest of five children. He grew up in Roxbury where his father was a florist and his mother stayed at home to raise the children.
Mr. Michaels graduated from Roxbury Memorial High School and enrolled at Boston University.
In 1943, he left college to volunteer for the Army and served with the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion of the Sixth Armored Division. Decades later, he and his family returned to France, where he was stationed during the war, to retrace his steps.
“He took us to the farmhouse where his company stayed,’’ his daughter said. “They were very pleased to see my father then, in the ’70s, as their liberator.’’
When World War II ended, Mr. Michaels returned to BU and graduated from its School of Law. During that time, he worked as the business manager of a small weekly newspaper.
After getting his law degree, Mr. Michaels graduated from the Yale University’s Labor and Management Center, and began working as a trial lawyer.
His daughter recalled that some clients could not afford to pay and provided other compensation. One man painted the basement of the Michaels family home, which remains the same yellow color from the 1970s, his daughter said.
Soon after Mr. Michaels began practicing law, he met Barbara Fullington, a school teacher. They married and had two daughters, raising them in Newton. Their marriage ended in divorce about 30 years later.
Mr. Michaels also worked with start-up companies such as Abt Associates, a research and consulting firm founded by his close friend Clark Abt.
Along with serving as the first clerk and general counsel for Abt Associates, Mr. Michaels helped about 30 other companies get off the ground. Abt said that although Mr. Michaels only asked for modest compensation, “he made his fortune mainly helping to start up a lot of companies and participating in them entrepreneurially.’’
In 1989, Mr. Michaels married the former Madeleine Ganter, who is French and came to the United States as a Fulbright scholar.
She said they traveled several times a year to destinations such as Paris, Nashville, and parts of South America. In 1993, they bought property in Naples, Fla., which they visited several times. They moved to the area permanently after he retired in 2001.
In his last years practicing law, Mr. Michaels focused on telecommunications and start-up tech companies.
“He had an iPhone, an iPad, a computer, he knew how to Skype,’’ she said. “The last time I saw him, he was in the hospital bed and was busy looking things up on his iPad.’’
In Naples, Mr. Michaels was involved in several organizations and started playing tennis. He served as president of the Naples Council on World Affairs, on the board for Classic Chamber Concerts, and was a member of the Forum Club of Southwest Florida.
“He was very respected and known and admired,’’ his wife said. “He really left a mark wherever he went.’’
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Michaels leaves another daughter, Julia of Rio de Janeiro; two stepsons, Mathieu and David Berman, both of Nashville; a sister, Gertrude Webb of Lexington; and six grandchildren.
His grandson Elliot De Carvalho was the only other member of his family to pursue law as a career.
“When I embarked on becoming a lawyer,’’ De Carvalho said, “he was in a sense pleasantly surprised.’’
De Carvalho said wants to be like his grandfather, a lawyer who can give advice in any situation.
“There’s a distinction between just a lawyer and a broad-based adviser,’’ he said. “People went to seek out his advice actively.’’