ACLU Lobbyist Larry Frankel Found Dead in Washington

Longtime Pennsylvania ACLU lobbyist and Executive Director Larry Frankel, who in the last year or so has become the lobbyist for the national ACLU, has apparently been found dead in Washington under mysterious circumstances. Larry was 54. This is a breaking news story in which most key facts are still generally unknown.

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.

His aggressive outreach removed the ACLU from the fringes or margins of state policy and moved it toward the center of direct involvement.

A proud gay man, he was militant on the issue of gay marriage, believing that it was far more important to keep the legal option of gay marriage by defeating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage than to enact civil unions legislation, an uphill battle that some, including myself, thought was winnable. His views on gay marriage were somewhat vindicated when four New England states and the state of Iowa legalized gay marriage this year.

Larry believed in the importance of facts in making decisions. His correspondence with legislators was full of facts. While his extraordinary depth of knowledge of public policy occassionally made him seem arrogant, I always found him deeply respectful to those whom he had not yet convinced.

He made progress on hard issues, such as the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentences, by documenting their high fiscal costs. He was often a lone legislative voice in debating with the District Attorneys Association, which frequently sought changes in law to reverse unfavorable court rulings.

He was a strong voice on freedom of choice, equal rights for women, and freedom of speech. He recognized he was the under the handicap of working for an organization whose members were generally not politically active, and whose views were not politically popular. But he was tenacious, factual, honest, and decent, and he earned the deep respect of virtually all with whom he came into contact.

He will be deeply missed by his many friends in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, as well as in Washington. He was one of the finest human beings to serve as a lobbyist, and his daily work honored the lobbying profession, as well as the ACLU and the gay community.

Among those who survive his death are his former partner of many years, attorney and former chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Andrew Chirls.

A tragic loss

for all of us. Larry was gracious and generous with his time and wisdom and a great help on strategic discussions about immigrant rights as well.

I'm just stunned. He's a legend. NT



Through my friends at the Democratic party and Americans United, I heard his name come up often and knew of many of his accomplishments. I regret that I never got to meet him in person and am saddened by his death.

Terrible news for us at ACLU of PA

I worked with Larry for three years at ACLU-PA. He taught me everything I know about lobbying. If I'm half the lobbyist he was, I'll be doing a good job.

Justice has lost a friend.

Mark, Please let us know if


Please let us know if you get any more info re. Larry’s tragic death.

No More Information About Larry Frankel's Death

Despite making some inquiries, I have found out no more solid information about the circumstances of Larry Frankel's death. I well know the difference between speculation and fact, and I see no purpose in spreading unconfirmed speculation.

I assume the official public announcement of his death is delayed by the desire to have his family notified first, the family's need to plan a funeral service and/or a memorial service, and the possible need to conduct an autopsy to help determine the cause of his death at the age of 54.

Larry grew up in Los Angeles, and came to Pennsylvania to attend school in Pittsburgh, and then migrated to Philadephia. The last I heard years ago, most of his family was still in the Los Angeles area. This obviously complicates funeral and/or memorial service planning.

Jewish law requires the prompt holding of funerals, and will likely be an influence in support of quick decision-making by his grieving family and close personal friends.

Mark, what is your source on this?

Where did you learn of this? From ACLU DC staff? It's nowhere online except here.

Major Initial Source Is A Close Personal Friend of Larry Frankel

My major source is a close personal friend of Larry Frankel. His death has confirmed by other sources, including one online that linked to Young Philly Politics, and that you can find by googling Larry Frankel in the google blog section.

Nothing would make me happier than to have Larry come forth and quote Mark Twain that "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." But I do not expect that to happen.

I saw that, but it only

I saw that, but it only linked to you. I presume the news is true, because otherwise someone would have corrected it by now. How sad.

Homicide Division of Washington Police Confirms Frankel Death

A few minutes ago, the homicide division of the Washington, D.C. Police Department confirmed to me a rumor that the man found yesterday at 11:00 a.m. in the water at Rock Creek Park was indeed our friend Lawrence Evan Frankel, known to us all as Larry. The Washington Post ran a story online yesterday about the finding of the body.

The homicide division says that an autopsy will be done later today to determine the cause of his death. While the homicide division is investigating his death, they do not know at this time that his death was due to homicide. The timing of this autopsy may keep the story out of the papers until Monday or Tuesday.

Very, very sad.

Very, very sad.

Great friend to justice

who will be greatly missed.


Larry was an amazing lobbyist and mentor. He was instrumental in stopping a state constitutional amendment that would have barred same-sex marriage and on many, many other civil rights issues including employment discrimination issues. An incredibly busy man, he was always willing to take the time to talk to young pups (like me) about how to get things done in Hburg and elsewhere.

When he left the PA ACLU, it was a huge loss, but to know he'll never have a chance to come back is just terrible.

That is really sad news

Larry was a true friend to our union during his time in Harrisburg. It was devastating to lose him as an ally there, and this is just shocking.


This is unbelievable. Larry and I worked closely together on so many issues in Harrisburg and he taught me how to work the hallways there. He was a critical part of a statewide coalition to protect the voting rights of people on probation and parole a few years ago. He played a support and leadership role in countless progressive causes and was generous with his insight and strategy. We have lost a good friend.

Awful news

I met Larry only once and saw at once what a warm, encouraging man he was. I helped out a bit on two issue campaigns he lead and was impressed with his strategic sense and leadership.

how awful

I'm so sad to hear this. Besides being a tireless advocate, he was such a kind soul.

This is very sad news

Larry was smart, an incredibly decent person, and a champion for everybody. I am so very sorry to hear this terrible news.

So sad, and shocking.

So sad, and shocking.

Ugh ugh ugh. This is so

Ugh ugh ugh. This is so sad.

I am so sorry to hear of

I am so sorry to hear of Larry's death. I had the privilege to work with Larry during the time I spent in Harrisburg, and as both our paths took us to Washington D.C., he was often a friendly face on the Philly-DC train very early in the morning at 30th Street. What terrible news.

Statement from ACLU

Here is the statement the ACLU just posted on its web site:

Such sad news

Larry and I (and Andy) were all close friends in law school in Berkeley in the late 1970s, and we had stayed close for more than 30 years. The news is devastating, and reading about all of his accomplishments since he left California only makes the news harder to bear.

This is terrible &

This is terrible & unbelievable news, such a loss for us all.

Doctors See Natural Causes & Exertion As Likely Death Causes

While reaching no final conclusions until all tests are in, doctors from the DC medical examiners office feel it likely that Larry died of a combination of exertion, heat exposure, asthma, and dehydration as a result of jogging through Rock Creek Park.

The doctors see no evidence of violence. Small bruises on his body are consistent with a fall.

Larry reported to work last Wednesday and left early, complaining of food poisoning.

My information comes from Shannon Duffy of the Legal Intelligencer, who posts Monday's story at He will post a fuller story later in the week. To access more than the first page summaries, one has to either have a subscription to the Legal Intelligencer or take out a trial subscription.

Andy Chirls told me he was interviewed extensively by the Inquirer, as well as the Legal Intelligencer, so there may be a story at soon as well.

Andy also told me that the memorial service for Larry will likely be after Yom Kippur, which occurs on September 28 of this year.

RIP Larry, You Will Be Missed!

This hurts my heart so much. Larry was an inspirational human being and a very sensitive and intelligent man. Working with him for a couple years at the ACLU taught me a lot about the value of conviction. People who say that one person can't change things never met Larry Frankel. He knew how to work with the opposition, how to convince them of the merit of his position and how to charm them.

Despite his hard work and drive, Larry also had a great sense of humor. He had this glimmer of mischief that would come out when he cracked a wry joke. That was always a pleasure to see. People loved him so much and for good reason.

The world is not the same without you, Larry!

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