John Frohnmayer

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John Frohnmayer
Frohnmayer in 2007
John Edward Frohnmayer

(1942-06-01) June 1, 1942 (age 78)
OccupationAttorney, writer, arts leader
Spouse(s)Leah (nee Thorpe) Frohnmayer
  • Otto Frohnmayer (father)
  • MarAbel Braden Frohnmayer (mother)
RelativesDavid B. Frohnmayer (brother)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1966–1980

John Frohnmayer (born June 1, 1942) is a retired attorney from the U.S. state of Oregon. He was the fifth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a program of the United States government. He was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, and served until 1992.

Early life[edit]

On June 1, 1942, Frohnmayer was born in Medford, Oregon. Frohnmayer's father was Otto Frohnmayer, a German who immigrated to Oregon in 1906 and an attorney in Oregon. Frohnmayer's mother was MarAbel Braden Frohnmayer, co-founder and the first president of the Rogue Valley Chorale. Frohnmayer has three siblings.[1][2][3]


Frohnmayer earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University, where he sang with the Stanford Mendicants, an a cappella singing group. Later, he earned a master's degree in Christian ethics from the University of Chicago and a J.D. degree from the University of Oregon School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review in 1972.[4]


In 1966, Frohnmayer joined the United States Navy and served as an engineering officer on USS Oklahoma City. In 1980, Frohnmayer retired from the military.[1]

Frohnmayer chaired the Oregon Arts Commission from 1980–1984.[5]

President George H. W. Bush appointed Frohnmayer to chair the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989. The NEA was in the midst of controversies surrounding its funding of various projects, notably those of Robert Mapplethorpe, which would lead to Congressional action and a United States Supreme Court decision in 1998, National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley. Frohnmayer's focus on art education was largely overshadowed by the contentious partisan politics surrounding the agency.

Under pressure from the Religious Right, and Pat Buchanan in particular, Frohnmayer was asked to resign in 1992.[6]

Frohnmayer published two books in the 1990s: Leaving Town Alive, an account of his experience at the NEA, and Out of Tune: Listening to the First Amendment, a text for high school and college courses.

Frohnmayer is an Affiliate Professor of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.[7]

In sports, Frohnmayer is an elite rower with Corvallis Rowing Club in Oregon.[8]

2008 U.S. Senate campaign[edit]

On September 12, 2007, Frohnmayer announced that he would run for the United States Senate representing Oregon, running as a candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon.[9] for the seat formerly held by Republican Gordon Smith. He dropped out of the race on June 10, 2008, citing fundraising problems.[10] Smith lost the Senate election to Jeff Merkley, a Democrat who was cross-nominated by the Independent Party after Frohnmayer quit the race.

Personal life[edit]

In 1967, Frohnmayer married Leah Thorpe. They have two sons, Jason and Aaron. Frohnmayer and his family live in Jefferson, Oregon.[1]

See also[edit]


  • Frohnmayer, John (1993). Leaving Town Alive: Confessions of an arts warrior. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-65571-9.
  • Frohnmayer, John (1995). Out of Tune:Listening to the First Amendment. North American Press. ISBN 978-1-55591-932-0.


  1. ^ a b c "John Edward Frohnmayer (1942-)". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  2. ^ "Frohnmayer, Otto, 1905-1997". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  3. ^ Fattig, Paul (August 29, 2020). "Frohnmayer and his fond memories of Medford". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  4. ^ Bob Keefer (August 15, 2004). "Sculpting a legacy". The Register-Guard.
  5. ^ Gamarekian, Barbara (1989-07-08). "Appointment To Arts Post Is Praised". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  6. ^ "Headliners: Out of the Picture". The New York Times. February 23, 1992. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  7. ^ "John Frohnmayer to visit OSU for lectures, special course". July 29, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  8. ^ Ruud, Candice (August 28, 2009). "Corvallis Rowing Club brings home gold". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  9. ^ Stanchak, Jessie (September 12, 2007). "Well-Known Independent Candidate Joins Oregon Senate Race". Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  10. ^ "Frohnmayer drops out of Ore. Senate race". 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-06-10.

External links[edit]