Hurlbert De Graff Austin was one of nine children born to Fayette Austin and Cora Emma Andrews, on his family’s ranch near
Fallbrook, California, on July 25, 1895. He lived his entire life in San Diego County, in Fallbrook, Escondido and San Diego.
His father, Fayette Austin, was trained as an etymologist and served as the first San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner.
De Graff Austin went to grade school in Escondido and Logan Heights then attended San Diego High School, where he served as
class president in his senior year. After his high school graduation in 1913, he enrolled at Pomona College for two years
to study for the Ministry of the Congregational Church. Austin was advised to give up ministry and to study law. From September
1915 to June 1917, he studied law at Hamilton-Lindley Law School in San Diego. While studying law, he worked as one of several
secretaries for Arthur W. Savage, firearms manufacturer. In June of 1917, he enlisted as a Flying Cadet for the Air Section
Signal Corps, U.S. Army to serve during World War I. Austin received his ground training at University of California, Berkeley
and flight training at Kelley Field, Rockwell Field, Ream Field, and March Field. He was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant later
that same year. He left the Service in 1919 and went on to work for various local firms.