Dave Frohnmayer is honored on Capitol grounds
SALEM — As he was memorialized by a plaque on a bench outside the Capitol, Dave Frohnmayer was remembered as an Oregon public official and servant who transcended partisanship and pettiness.
Two of his former deputies, a family friend and the person who now is attorney general — one of his former law students — spoke at a ceremony June 13.
"Dave walked between the Capitol and the Justice Building thousands of times," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. "He loved this park as a route to the Capitol, but also as a place for quiet reflection and an occasional quick tuna sandwich."
Rosenblum was a student in a first-year torts class taught by Frohnmayer at the University of Oregon law school in the 1970s.
"Even in our first year, it was about how policy, the law and politics can work together," she said.
"What I admired most is that he embodied the lawyer as public servant concept, first as a lawyer-legislator and then attorney general."
The plaque is inscribed simply with his name, years of birth and death, and "Statesman, Educator, Advocate."
Frohnmayer taught law from 1971 to 1980, when he was elected attorney general, and was a state representative from Eugene from 1975 to 1980. He was attorney general from 1981 to 1991, and then returned to the University of Oregon, first as law school dean from 1992 to 1994, then president until he retired in 2009.
He continued to teach there until his death from prostate cancer at age 74 in 2015.
"His was a life of service at every level. He was widely mourned as an Oregonian who represented the best of us all," said Jack Landau, who rose to the No. 2 position at the Oregon Department of Justice before Frohnmayer left at the end of 1991.
"He was for me a boss, a role model, a mentor and a friend. I know he was the same for many others."
Landau retired as an Oregon Supreme Court justice at the end of 2017.
Bill Gary, a Eugene lawyer, also became deputy attorney general earlier in Frohnmayer's tenure.
"I cannot help but think Dave would be deeply shocked by the distress and division, the anger and the fear, that have become all too endemic in the political affairs of our state, our country and the world," Gary said.
"But at his core, in the face of personal and political challenges you know about, Dave was an incurable optimist. He would believe that in Oregon, we could have a government as decent as the people it serves.
"If he were with us today, I believe he would remind us to trust in the basic human decency of everyone. He would admonish us to find a way to overcome our profound differences — and for each of us to listen to the other, really listen."
Frohnmayer was the losing Republican nominee for governor in 1990, when anti-abortion conservatives backed a third-party candidate. Out of elected office in the early 1990s, he warned against "tribalism" that divided instead of uniting people.
Among the family members present were his wife, Lynn, and his brother John, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer established the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund 30 years ago to search for a cure for the rare blood disease that affects bone marrow. Daughters Katie (1991), Kirsten (1997) and Amy (2016) died of the disease; they are honored by plaques elsewhere on the Capitol grounds.
The Frohnmayers also have two sons, Mark and Jonathan.
State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, is a longtime family friend of the Frohnmayers who spoke at the memorial service for Dave Frohnmayer in 2015 at Matthew Knight Arena on the Oregon campus.
She quoted former Gov. Tom McCall's description of Frohnmayer:
"A Legislature full of Dave Frohnmayers would give us the best government any state has ever had. It would be a brainy bunch — long on courage, insight, imagination and pragmatic idealism, and short on sniveling partisanship and other manipulative temptations."
"That is the way I will always remember Dave," she said.
Among others at the ceremony were Marla Rae, executive assistant to Frohnmayer and two of his successors as attorney general, and former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who himself was attorney general from 1993 to 1997, and a Democratic lawmaker from Lane County from 1975 to 1983.