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Lionel Van Deerlin on UC-TV, April 2004
Lionel Van Deerlin (July 25 1914May 17 2008) was an Americanmarker politician who served as a Democratic United States Representative from Californiamarker from 1963 to 1981, representing a San Diegomarker area district.


Van Deerlin was born 1914 in Los Angeles, Californiamarker. He attended the public schools at Oceansidemarker, and earned a bachelor of arts in journalism from the University of Southern Californiamarker in 1937, where he was editor of the Daily Trojan.

Van Deerlin served in the United States Army for four years during World War II in the Field Artillery, on the staff of Stars and Stripes newspaper (Mediterranean), and in the overseas service in Italymarker. After the war, he was a journalist in Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker and Baltimore, Marylandmarker.

Van Deerlin moved to San Diegomarker where he was city editor of the old San Diego Journal, which was founded by Clinton D. McKinnon. Later, Van Deerlin became news director of XETVmarker, then the ABC affiliate in San Diego, and later moved to NBC affiliate KFSD-AM-FM-TVmarker.

Van Deerlin was elected to Congress in 1962 from the newly created 37th District, becoming the first Democrat to represent a San Diego-based district in Congress since Clinton D. McKinnon left office in 1953. He was reelected eight times from this district, which was renumbered the 41st in 1972 and the 42nd in 1975. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Van Deerlin encouraged competition in the telecommunications industry by conducting hearings that led to the breakup of AT&T. He supported a broad interpretation of First Amendment rights for broadcasters.

In 1980, Van Deerlin's Republican opponent was attorney Duncan Hunter. Hunter's campaign was initially considered a longshot, but he gained considerable traction by painting Van Deerlin as weak on defense. This caught Van Deerlin flat-footed. Besides using the "weak on defense" label in a solid military-based economy that is omnipresent in the San Diego metropolitan area, Hunter's activities (such as helping the poor receive legal assistance) in the community were also an asset. By the time Van Deerlin began to take Hunter seriously (he hadn't really had to campaign since his first race), it was too late, and Hunter narrowly defeated him.

Van Deerlin was a professor emeritus at San Diego State Universitymarker and had a weekly columnist (every Thursday) in The San Diego Union-Tribune. The Lionel Van Deerlin Endowed Chair in Communications at San Diego State was named in his honor.

Van Deerlin died at age 93 at his home in San Diego.


Twenty-five years ago in Congress you not only trusted the opposing party, you enjoyed their company. Today, they hardly speak. Speech before the Osher Forum, broadcast by UC-TV, April 23, 2004

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