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Frohnmayer leaves legacy of distinguished service

Medford native Dave Frohnmayer, who died Monday night after what his family described as a "quiet battle" with prostate cancer, will be remembered for that characteristic as much as any. Although he rose to the highest levels of public life, he didn't trumpet his accomplishments from the rooftops as he worked diligently in the interest of his fellow Oregonians.

Frohnmayer was the son of Medford attorney and civic leader Otto Frohnmayer and his wife, MarAbel, a patron of the arts whose name adorns the music building at the University of Oregon. He attended Harvard University and earned his law degree at the University of California, Berkeley.

Frohnmayer taught at the University of Oregon law school, and as a private citizen he advocated for Oregon's public records and meetings laws, which were adopted in 1973. In 1974 he was elected to the Oregon House from Lane County.

He was elected attorney general in 1980 and was re-elected twice, running the the second and third times as the nominee of both the Democratic and Republican parties. He ran for governor in 1990 but lost to Gov. Barbara Roberts in a three-way race. He never ran for office again, but continued his career of public service as dean of the U of O law school and then as the university's president, retiring in 2009.

Frohnmayer was a Republican in the Oregon tradition of moderate leadership exemplified by Gov. Tom McCall and Sen. Mark Hatfield. He was less interested in scoring partisan victories than in doing what he thought was best for the people of the state.

The tributes that flowed from all corners of the political spectrum testify to the respect Frohnmayer earned, even from adversaries, throughout his long and distinguished career.

Former Medford mayor and legislator Al Densmore summed it up well: "He was just a class act in everything he did and the way he treated everyone."

We would all do well to honor Dave Frohnmayer by emulating him.