Remembering Frank Daar, who helped bring leftist Berkeley candidates to power in the ’70s

Frank Daar was a leader in the formation of the “April Coalition,” which made national news in 1971 by electing Loni Hancock, Ira Simmons and D’Army Bailey to the Berkeley City Council.

Frank Daar. Credit: Friends of Frank Daar

With great love and respect we inform the community of the passing of Frank Daar, a longtime community member and a leader in the social and political movements that shaped Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s. Frank was an active, informed and effective participant during the period that UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies has called “the period of experiment and change.”

Born into a family of teachers in Brooklyn, Frank came to Berkeley as a visitor from Chicago in mid-winter and fell in love with Berkeley’s temperate climate. He had been working as a chemist in Chicago and was able to find work as a chemist at the DeSoto Paint company, one of the area’s last traditional manufacturing plants. Drafted into the military after the Cuban Missile Crisis, he served as a medic in Fort Benning, Georgia. On his return, he went back to work at DeSoto, but left their employ when it turned out they were moving, of all places, to Chicago.

Frank met his adored wife, Sheila, at a demonstration during the Free Speech Movement in the mid-1960s. They married in 1966, when both worked at the legendary Ramparts Magazine, a journal of progressive politics — Sheila as a managing editor, and Frank in advertising and sales.

Breaking the mold, Frank left Ramparts to be the main caregiver for their young son, Noah. Later, he and Sheila founded a plant-growing business with George and Luanne Rogers which delivered seedlings to nurseries throughout East Bay communities. Later he taught chemistry and other sciences at Arrowsmith High School, where he was a beloved teacher.

During one of the first anti-Vietnam War peace campaigns in the country, the “Scheer Campaign for Congress” in 1966, Frank was a leading strategist. Later he was a steering and campaign committee member of the “Community for New Politics” which merged with the “Better Berkeley Council” and UC students led by Jeff Gordon and David Mundstock to form the “Berkeley Coalition.”

In 1970 a broad East Bay Coalition elected Ron Dellums to the U.S. Congress. Frank was part of the campaign committee for that historic campaign. Following that, he was a leader in the formation of the “April Coalition” that made national news in 1971 by electing Loni Hancock, Ira Simmons and D’Army Bailey to the Berkeley City Council.

During a period of tumultuous council meetings and vigorous debate, Berkeley passed first-in-the-nation affirmative action programs, recycling programs, and others that were considered “radical” at the time but have since become part of mainstream public policy.

Frank was a source of support and advice every step of the way as these “first-time” policies were enacted, and he chaired the Berkeley Citizen’s Action drive to elect Loni Hancock to her first term as Berkeley mayor.

It turned out later that there had been FBI surveillance at many of the meetings Frank attended. When the Freedom of Information Act passed, Frank was able to see these reports. He was amused to discover his surname misspelled many times, with each misspelling listed as a different “alias”!

Frank Daar knew more about history and economics than most of us, and for over 50 years shared his time and opinions generously. He leaves a large and loving extended family: his beloved son, Noah; brother, Randy; sisters, Melissa Daar-Carvajal and Judith Daar; and second-mother Charlotte Daar. He will also be remembered and missed by those with whom he worked, and by his quite extraordinary Men’s Group of many decades, which gave him above-and-beyond comfort and support as he battled cancer in his last days.