Dave Frohnmayer dies at 74; political and academic leader in Oregon

Dave Frohnmayer
In a 2009 photo, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer walks in the commencement procession.
(Paul Carter, AP)
Associated Press

Dave Frohnmayer, a widely respected leader in Oregon politics and academics who was a former attorney general, president of the University of Oregon and candidate for governor, has died. He was 74.


Dave Frohnmayer: The obituary of Oregon politician and educator Dave Frohnmayer in the March 14 California section incorrectly identified his law partner Bill Gary as Bill Gray. —
Frohnmayer died Monday in Eugene, Ore., after a five-year battle against prostate cancer, according to a statement from his family.

A Republican, Frohnmayer served in the state Legislature before he was elected attorney general in 1980, a job he held through three terms. He ran for governor in 1990 but lost to Democrat Barbara Roberts in a three-way race.


Frohnmayer represented an old-school strain of Republican politics in Oregon, marked by moderation and liberalism in such figures as Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield, that has been eclipsed in an era of sharper partisan differences.

“A giant has fallen,” said longtime friend and law partner Bill Gray. “And Oregon and her citizens have lost a champion, and we’re all diminished by that.”

After his career in elective office, he went to the University of Oregon, where he served as dean of the law school and then for 15 years as president of the school.

During that time he fought to restore dwindling state funding, enlisted the university in efforts to battle climate change, supported American Indian students building a longhouse on campus, and adopted the “O’’ logo made famous by the football team for the entire university. He also lost a feud with Nike founder and Duck mega-booster Phil Knight over the athletic apparel company’s labor practices.


As state attorney general in the 1980s, Frohnmayer prosecuted followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh as they tried to establish a political power base on a commune outside the tiny high-desert community of Antelope. At the time, authorities said his efforts earned him a spot of the group’s hit list.

Frohnmayer, born July 9, 1940, in Medford, Ore., graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in government and went on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He earned a law degree from UC Berkeley. He and his wife, Lynn, started a foundation to combat Fanconi anemia after the rare genetic blood disorder killed two of their daughters.

In addition to his wife, Frohnmayer is survived by three children; his sister Mira; and his brother John, a former director of the National Endowment for the Arts and independent candidate for U.S. Senate from Oregon.

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