Larry Frankel, ACLU lobbyist, RIP

According to various sources, including Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen, posting at Young Philly Politics, Larry Frankel passed away recently. The cause is unclear.

Frankel was the ACLU's chief lobbyist in state legislatures, guiding state civil liberties unions through the thickets of their states' legislatures, building coalitions with partners across the political spectrum, and defending the rights of every American.

As Cohen writes:

Frankel was an outstanding lobbyist for the Pennsylvania ACLU in Harrisburg, taking positions on scores to hundreds of bills each year. He was a coalition builder reminiscent of Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate or William Brennan on the U.S. Supreme Court, who agressively reached out to unlikely allies like the National Rifle Association to help persuade members of the legislature that the ACLU was addressing broad concerns.

Before moving to DC and the national office, he was the legislative director and executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. His promotion to the national office was a sign of how effective he'd been in Pennsylvania, where he defeated a range of bills, often defying all odds to find a coalition that could quash a bad bill or defend a good one.

I only met Frankel once, but his intellect and the particular way he approached problems left a lasting impression. He will be missed by all of us concerned about civil liberties and the law.

I don't know what his family's wishes are in terms of flowers or donations, but I just reupped my ACLU membership. They'll need a lot of extra help to continue Larry's tremendous work.

More like this

Thanks to Sandefur for sending me a link to this information. I've done a lot of work defending the ACLU for a long time, but on this one I will gladly condemn them, at least this chapter, in the harshest possible terms. The Florida ACLU has elected to its board a man named Parvez Ahmed, who said…
The Worldnutdaily continues its campaign of outright dishonesty toward the ACLU with this ridiculous screed by William Simon. The lies begin in the very first sentence: Believe it or not, there was a time when the American Civil Liberties Union was a respected organization that fought to protect…
Doug Patton, a freelance writer for and, has written a column on evolution that is so abysmal that it might well qualify him as the Idiot of the Month if I didn't already have one. Perhaps I should wait a day and give him December's award. I especially like this passage…
At 1 pm today, there is a press conference at the state capital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against the Dover School District over its new policy to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism in public school science classrooms in that…

I was privledged to work along side Larry for several years fighting to derail anti LGBT legislation as well as attacks on poor peopel and immigrants. He was a brillant legislative strategist. I will always remember his unig\que wit and his passion for justice. And I will deeply miss a man I feel honored to have been a friend of.

By Jeff Hunsicker (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

The board members and the staff of the Pennsylvania ACLU affiliate and its chapters have lost a great friend of many years and a highly effective colleague.

By Karl Baker (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

In 2005, I had the honor of joining Professor Randy Bennett and ACLU's Larry Frankel in testifying against Pennsylvania's HB 1007, which would have mandated the teaching of ID in PA science classes. Thanks to our testimony, the bill was rejected by the PA Education Subcommittee.

This is a terrible loss. Larry was instrumental in keeping intelligent design doctrine out of PA schools. It is a shame that he is gone.

By Janice Rael (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

Thanks, Joshua, for your kind thoughts. I worked with Larry for three years at ACLU-PA and succeeded him as legislative director. When he went to our DC office in February of 2008, we continued to work together, talking several times a week by phone and email.

He was my mentor, and he will be dearly missed. Justice has lost a friend.

As a past board member of the ACLU of PAI was shocked when I received the call yesterday about Larry's death. Civil liberties has lost a true champion.

By Scott Safier (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

Larry will be missed. it was indeed an honor to testify along side Larry (and Janice). He had such an amazingly calm demeanor in the face of such idiotic legislators. I enjoyed watching him on our public cable channel. He will be missed.

By Randy Bennett (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

In honor of Larry, I suggest we all add a little extra to our ACLU donations this year.

By Randy Bennett (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

While I did not know Larry personally - his work on behalf of all people is well regarded. Such a loss of a wonderful advocate for all people. He will be missed.

By Susan Woods (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

Larry was my friend and colleague during the time he was in Harrisburg. I took a measure of comfort in knowing that he was always watching out for incursions on civil rights, would be responding intelligently and working to build relationships with unlikely allies.

I helped to organize a farewell celebration when he left Harrisburg and pulled the file out to look at it last night. The wide array of those who responded was testimony to his ability to cross party and ideological lines to get the job done. I missed him when he left Harrisburg and the news of his untimely and mysterious death has wounded my spirit. As I watched Ted Kennedy's funeral today I thought so many times that the accolades he so richly deserved could apply equally well to Larry. We have lost two great defenders of liberty this week.

By Morgan Plant (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

I came to the Philadelphia ACLU board several years ago as part of the merger of the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund with the ACLU, and Larry was someone all of us on the Board worked closely with. He was smart, had a lot of political savvy, and was clearly dedicated to civil liberties and a host of other issues (death penalty, LGBT rights, etc). I was really honored when he asked me to come with him to Harrisburg and testify on medical records privacy; it was obvious that the State Capitol was where he was most effective and he seemed to love being there to try to effect change. Society is greatly diminished by the loss of such a person. I heard about this earlier tonight from Mark Cohen's Facebook post and was speechless. The full implications of losing Larry are still to be determined-he was one of those people whose work was critical to the civil liberties battle, and I'm at a loss to imagine that folks will wage this battle as effectively without his council and energy.