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Lanterman House exhibit sheds light on lawmaker who advocated for disabled Californians

Lanterman House exhibit sheds light on lawmaker who advocated for disabled Californians
A photo of Frank Lanterman playing the organ is displayed at the new exhibit "The Legacy of Frank Lanterman 1901-1981" at the Lanterman House in La Cañada Flintridge. (Raul Roa / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Who was Frank Lanterman? A man whose passion for playing the organ inspired him to abandon his studies at USC weeks before graduation? Or a state assemblyman whose work on behalf of people with disabilities is still evident 40 years later?

Or perhaps he was a bit of a recluse who rubbed elbows with America's elite but spent the final years of his post-retirement life in close quarters with brother Lloyd, surrounded by organ mechanisms, tools, machines and countless boxes of personal and political memorabilia.

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A new exhibit at Lanterman House museum in La Cañada Flintridge aims to shed light on the man known to friends as "Uncle Frank" and affectionately labeled by fellow lawmakers as "the workhorse of Sacramento," using never-before-seen photos and audio elements to impart Lanterman's indelible impact on California life.

Opened on Tuesday and running through Dec. 21, "The Legacy of Frank Lanterman" offers insight into the life and times of the Republican lawmaker who authored the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act, passed in 1977, and served as advisor and friend to California leaders during the decades he was in office.

"Politicians of all stripes respected him and thought of him as a mentor. I can't think of many California politicians who have that kind of reputation," Lanterman House executive director Melissa Patton said.

Upon his retirement, announced to protest funding cuts proposed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, Lanterman received a standing ovation on the Assembly floor.

"He really was a model politician, someone whose interest in the citizens of the state of California came first, above any political ideology and above his own political career," Patton said.

"He did have plenty of ego," she said, "but that came second."

Twitter: @SaraCardine

Cardine writes for Times Community News

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