Rafe McCawley was Defiance’s richest and most powerful human – the owner of the McCawley gulanite mines. His family has been in this territory for generations. He serves on the city council and is the father of three: Luke McCawley, Quentin McCawley, and Christie Tarr.
Raised by a tough-as-nails father in St. Louis, he aspired to be a photographer, taking primarily sports photos, with the occasional bikini photos. Rafe McCawley always tried to live down his father's well known commercial personality as "Chow Down Brown" McCawley, dog food manufacturer. Any mention of the jingle still grates on his nerves. He was in St. Louis married and raising his family when the Votan's arrived. He mentions to Nolan of taking Luke to Golden's when he was three. Rafe disobeyed his father’s wishes and enlisted. After the Pale Wars, he took his wife and burgeoning family back to his home of St. Louis, now barely recognizable due to terraforming. He attempted to keep up with his photography taking terraformed landscapes, but he had to give it up in the end, as he found it all too depressing. He says it reminded him of all the aliens took away from them, and he longs for the world as it was before the Votans arrived. However, he is a fair employer, hiring all races, and he is particularly friendly with his Liberata housekeeper Bertie.
Rafe was very close to fellow veteran Garret Clancy, describing him as being like a brother. Rafe is the only person to have said anything negative about former beloved Mayor Nicky, telling Quentin that she is a dangerous woman. There is some mystery about the death of Rafe's wife. While he was taunting Rafe into killing him, Ben Daris said that Rafe's son Luke always hated Rafe for what he did to his mother and conspired in order to get enough money to get away from him. Rafe also has had a contentious relationship with son Quentin, who has always viewed Luke as Rafe's favorite. Rafe's continued hostility toward aliens has caused a rift between himself and his daughter Christie who has fallen in love with castithan Alak Tarr, despite the fact that she has been the only one holding the family together since the death of Rafe's wife. Grief at the loss of his wife and his hostility to aliens for the destruction of earth seems to have caused him to bury himself literally and figuratively in his work. When his daughter says that he needs to take a vacation, he tells her that he wouldn't know what to do on one.
As one of the founders of Defiance, Rafe has amassed a considerable fortune in the Gulanite mining business, and now seeks to exert his influence and champion the advancement of the town and his family in the town’s political sphere. He co-sponsored the building of the statue to honor the Defiant Few, and on the city council he supported the arms deal with the Votan Collective and the mag-lev railline.