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In Memoriam: David Franke - My Old Friend and Conservative Movement Pioneer

My oldest living friend David Franke suffered a heart attack and died last Wednesday,

October 28th in Winchester, VA Medical Center.

David Franke was one of the founders of the modern conservative movement. He was co-founder of the first conservative youth organization, the National Student Committee for the Loyalty Oath in 1959, which became the catalyst for future youth activism, including Students for Goldwater for Vice President at the 1960 Republican Convention in Chicago. He was a co-organizer of the founding meeting of Young Americans for Freedom at Bill Buckley Jr.’s family estate in Sharon, Connecticut, September 1960.

Franke wrote for many influential conservative publications, including National Review and Human Events. He was the author or co-author of numerous books. He co-authored with me America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power, an examination of how conservatives bypassed the establishment media to help elect Ronald Reagan and Republican majorities in Congress.

David wrote his own obituary, even updating it with a trip to South Dakota he took a few weeks ago. I'm reprinting it exactly as he wrote it.

Regardless of when you came to the conservative movement, whether in the 1950s like David and I, or recently, you will benefit by reading David's story. There are lessons to be learned from the early days of the conservative movement that will help inform those who are interested in helping take the conservative movement to new heights.

In David's long life, he made a huge difference in advancing the cause of liberty and freedom under God's laws.

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

Richard A. Viguerie

David Franke (May 4, 1938 – October 28, 2020)

A Long Lifetime as an Activist, Writer, Editor, and Explorer

Monroe David Franke, 82, of Winchester, VA, passed away Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at Winchester Medical Center.

David was born on May 4, 1938 in Houston, Texas, as the first of three sons to Monroe Willie Franke and Otilia Sedonia Franke (nee Fick). His parents had just moved from the countryside of Austin County, Texas, to seek a better life during the Great Depression in the “big city” (population 384,000) of Houston. His father found employment during World War II as a welder at Brown’s Shipyard on the Houston Ship Channel, and some of David’s earliest memories were of World War II – uncles going to and returning from war, the blackouts, and watching the launching of a ship that his father had worked on.

The Franke ancestors had moved in the 1840s from Germany to St. Petersburg, Russia, and from there to Texas. His mother was of German and Czech ancestry, her ancestors having immigrated from the Bohemia region of Czechoslovakia. Rural central Texas was populated mostly by German and Czech immigrants. The family belonged to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

David excelled in the public elementary schools and was double-promoted several times. His brother Durwood (“Woody”) was born four years after him. The family lived at several locations in and around Houston, finally settling in the Spring Branch neighborhood northwest of the city. Two trips – to Wyoming and Cape Cod – awakened his lifelong interest in and love of travel. His brother Danny was born during his senior year.

David’s mother stressed their education and got David to join the band in junior high, playing clarinet and saxophone in the concert, marching, dance, and Dixieland bands. David was graduated from Spring Branch High School in 1955, and was named “Mr. Music” of his class. His best subject was math (in later years he called music “the cultural expression of math”) and he enjoyed history and physics (but hated chemistry).

It was at age 13 in Spring Branch that he read two books – John T. Flynn’s The Road Ahead and a critical biography of Stalin – that ignited his interest in politics, resulting in his lifelong involvement in the anti-Communist, conservative, libertarian, and anti-war movements. He had always been “painfully shy” as a boy, but suddenly found himself organizing petitions and writing letters-to-the-editor of the Houston Chronicle. His first appearance as a writer in a national publication was in The Freeman, during high school.

Farewell to Houston

David attended Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Chrisiti, Texas, on a music scholarship. The choice was a fortuitous one, with excellent professors who weren’t biased against conservative student. His most influential teacher was Dr. John Alexander Carroll, a historian of the Revisionist school who later won a Pulitzer Prize in history. With his growing interest in political philosophy, David soon switched from his music major to a liberal arts curriculum.

During the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, David worked and lived on the beach at Port Aransas with roommate Rudy Hunger. He described this as his “best summer ever,” manning the float stand (frequented by hundreds of blondes from the upper Midwest) while Rudy, who had a steady girlfriend at the time, manned the bait shop. Yes, David had lost his shyness by this point.

During his sophomore year, David became editor of the college newspaper, The Foghorn, writing conservative editorials and sending them (by snail mail at the time) to conservative and anti-Communist activists around the country. Del Mar was integrated, even though that was illegal in Texas at that time, and when Texas legislature threatened action, he told them to mind their own business. His networking led to opportunities that would take him permanently away from the Texas he loved.

First he won a scholarship to the first class of Bob LeFevre’s Freedom School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he became immersed in libertarian-anarchist philosophy. From there it was to Washington, D.C., with dramatic changes in his life.

Present at the Creation of the Conservative Movement

David was the first person offered a work-scholarship in Washington at the Old Right newsletter, Human Events. He was joined by Doug Caddy and Bill Schulz in the first journalism class under Managing Editor M. Stanton (Stan) Evans, a recent Yale graduate, who went on to an illustrious career as a conservative author and journalist, teaching thousands of students over his lifetime.

There may have been as many as 30 people in Washington at the time who called themselves “conservatives”, but ferment was in the air. Over beer and pizza after work, Stan gave his three charges their assignment: “First we take over the Young Republicans. Then we take over the Republican Party. Then we take over the country. And then we defeat world communism.” The beer, no doubt, made it seem a possibility. Further after-work sessions were held at the “dugout” of Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, where FDR’s brain trust had plotted a previous revolution.

David and housemate Doug Caddy started the first activist organization of the new conservative movement – the National Student Committee for the Loyalty Oath – in 1959, which became the catalyst for future youth activism, including Students for Goldwater for Vice President at the 1960 Republican convention in Chicago and then Young Americans for Freedom in 1961.

After leaving Human Events, David became Reed Larson’s first employee (other than his secretary) at the National Right to Work Committee. Then in 1960 he joined the editorial staff of National Review in New York City as editorial assistant to William F. Buckley Jr. Living in Greenwich Village, he was founder of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) at the Sharon Conference, and organized YAF’s Greater New York Council with 30-some chapters.

In 1963 David was drafted into the Army, serving with the 106th General Hospital attached to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. But he managed to attend the GOP convention in San Francisco that nominated Barry Goldwater for President, analyzing the situation beforehand with Buckley and novelist John Dos Passos in Buckley’s hotel suite. He then got an “early out” from the Army to serve as media director of Citizens for Goldwater-Miller in New York State.

After that campaign, in 1965, David returned to Washington to serve as editor of YAF’s magazine, The New Guard, and as Washington correspondent (“Cato”) for National Review. On the side, he attended the Newport Folk Festivals (he was there when Bob Dylan “went electric”) and 1967 found him in San Francisco for the “Summer of Love”, followed by the Monterey Pop Festival and Joan Baez’s World Folk Festival at Esalen, Big Sur.

Farewell to Activism, Hello to a Career

Deciding it was time to get a “real” job, David returned to New York in 1969 to become Senior Editor at Neil McCaffrey’s Arlington House book publishers and the Conservative Book Club. His authors included Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard (Conceived In Liberty), and Kevin Phillips (The Emerging Republican Majority, which became the basis for Nixon’s and Reagan’s successful Sunbelt Strategy). He also launched his own career as a book author, with Safe Places (1970) followed by several more books on the Safe Places theme.

He appeared on the Mike Douglas and David Frost TV shows, “Monitor”, “To Tell the Truth,” and all the New York City talk-radio shows of that day. His articles appeared in the New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, and other national publications. Newsweek and Time wrote about Safe Places and he was the subject of full-page interviews in the Washington Post and the New York Daily News.

David had become married to Holly Lambro of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., where they had met during the Goldwater campaign. They lived in New York City, then Ridgefield, Connecticut. They had a daughter, Melissa, who later graduated from Harvard University (B.A.) and the University of Pennsylvania (M.A.). David and Holly were divorced in 1987.

In 1976 the family moved to Indianapolis, where David started the book publishing program for Liberty Fund, a conservative-libertarian foundation. He created the Liberty Press and Liberty Classics book imprints, with authors ranging from Russell Kirk to Forrest McDonald and Jacques Barzun.

In 1980 David returned to Connecticut to launch a health newsletter, Modern Health Report, in partnership with Dan Rosenthal. An extensive three-issue interview with Dr. Linus Pauling on vitamin C led to his conversion to “alternative health.” David then became Senior Editor of Dan’s Silver & Gold Report, where he interviewed dozens of financial and economic experts, including Nobel laureate Dr. Friedrich A. von Hayek.

With the collapse of the gold bull market, David was forced to focus on his own career as a book author. He coauthored Richard C. Young’s Financial Armadillo Strategy with that successful investment analyst, and wrote a true-crime thriller, The Torture Doctor. He was working on a three-book project with President Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey, which was meant to culminate with his memoirs, when Casey died of a brain tumor in 1987.

David then joined Phillips Publishing in Potomac, Maryland, first as an editor of investment newsletters, then editing their health newsletters. He proposed their entry into the alternative health field and became director of Phillips’ Health Venture Team. Their most successful newsletter was Dr. Julian Whittaker’s Health and Healing, which became the largest grossing newsletter in the world.

During this period David also became an avid dancer – first swing dancing, where he studied under the likes of Frankie Manning of the original Harlem Lindy Hoppers, but then contra dancing (American folk dancing), which became his main passion. He went twice every week to dance at Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom outside of Washington, but also to dance weekends and weeks around the nation and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 1995 David became Editor-in-Chief of Georgetown Publishing in Washington, D.C. He was editor of John Naisbitt’s Trend Letter, then the nation’s largest and foremost futurist newsletter, writing the biweekly issues reporting on the forces transforming the economy, business, technology, society, and the world.

With the new century, David became the Editorial and Media Assistant to Richard A. Viguerie, who had transformed American politics by using direct response advertising (known as “direct mail” at the beginning) to fund the growing conservative movement. David and Richard had first met in 1959, and David was responsible for getting his fellow Houstonian to move to New York City to join the fledgling national political movement.

At Viguerie’s office in Manassas, Virginia, David was editor of a Y2K newsletter, The New Media Report, and GreenWatch. He then conceived a new political site, ConservativeHQ.com, and became its first editor. He also coauthored a number of books with Viguerie, including the highly respected America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power.

During the 20th century, David had traveled to most of the U.S. States while researching his books and on vacations. In the new century he turned his emphasis to international travel. His main interest was China, where he was a solo traveler throughout the nation and then spent a month with two friends in its far-west Uyghur-dominated Xinjiang Province. He also had significant trips to Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Istanbul, Egypt, Kenya, the European continent, and Iceland.

In 2011 David moved to Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. He continued to write remotely for Viguerie’s operations and worked developing three book ideas. In 2020 he began writing for RichardCYoung.com, covering politics, the coronavirus pandemic, the Safe Places for the new era. In 2020 he also traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota, adding North Dakota as the 50th state he had visited.

All services for Mr. Franke will be private.

Online Condolences may be left at www.jonesfuneralhomes.com

  • 2020 Election

  • conservative movement

  • David Franke

  • Barry Goldwater

  • William F. Buckley

  • Sharon statement

  • liberty

  • freedom

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