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¡§When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I

The Doge of Los Angeles                                      Jennifer Kim


Margaret Leslie Davis is a graduate of Georgetown University. Davis is also a California lawyer and author. She has also written Dark Side of Fortune: Triumph and Scandal in the Life of Oil Tycoon Edward L. Doheny and Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles for which she won the Golden Spur Award for Best Non-Fiction Book by the Western Writers of America. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.



Dubbed as the ¡§Doge of Los Angeles¡¨ by one historian, Franklin D. Murphy played a powerful role at the heart of virtually every new cultural institution in the city. 1 Margaret Leslie Davis delivers the compelling story of how Murphy influenced academia, the media, and cultural foundations to reshape a ¡§cultural backwater to a vibrant center for the arts.¡¨2 For approximately three decades, Murphy helped shape the city of Los Angeles into a world-class metropolis using his relationships with founders of some of America¡¦s greatest fortunes. By channeling more than one billion dollars into the city¡¦s arts and educational foundation, Murphy advanced Los Angeles into a brilliant world-classed city ready for its role in the new period of global trade and cross-cultural arts.

            Born on January 29, 1916 in Kansas City, Missouri, into a family that valued rational thought, young Franklin Murphy was energetic and adventurous. He grew up reading his ¡§way to exploits¡¨ with the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the Tom Swift series for boys, hardly imagining that as an adult he would ¡§encounter a social and intellectual revolution.¡¨3 Murphy first attended Kansas University, and then he was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, his father¡¦s alma mater. However, Franklin delayed this entry for a year to attend the University of Göttingen in Germany where his father also had studied. He chose to delay his admittance into University of Pennsylvania because he wanted to follow his father¡¦s footsteps ¡V allowing ¡§two Franklin Murphys to have worked in the same laboratories of the same German university.¡¨4 After he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Murphy was promised a teaching position at its medical school, but returned instead to the medical school at the University of Kansas in hopes of improving the institution. Murphy was then asked by the regents of the University of Kansas to accept the chancellorship. After accepting and serving as chancellor at the University of Kansas, Murphy was given the opportunity to be the chancellor at the University of California in Los Angeles. Before arriving in Los Angeles, Franklin Murphy had read about the idiosyncrasies of the city and its reputation as a ¡§cultural wasteland,¡¨ but to his surprise, he found the city curiously exciting.5 Franklin Murphy was welcomed into the circle of three strong-willed Los Angeles regents: Edward W. Carter, a ¡§charismatic and powerful retail-chain tycoon¡¨; Edwin Wendell Pauley, a ¡§steadfastly conservative oil millionaire¡¨; and Dorothy Buffum Chandler, an ¡§obsessive doyenne, a driving force in the family that owned the Times Mirror company and the Los Angeles Times.¡¨6 In November of 1961, Edward Carter nominated Murphy to be the chairman of the county art museum¡¦s building fund campaign. His new role gained him recognition in the community. To Murphy, the art museum was another symbol of ¡§coming cultural matur[ation]¡¨ of Los Angeles.7 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art then opened in the spring of 1965, following the opening of another arts institution, the Los Angeles Music Center on December 6, 1964. Not long after the opening of the two institutions, Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California on January 4, 1966. However, Reagan¡¦s campaign rhetoric was deeply disturbing to Murphy. For two years Murphy underwent severe funding cuts ordered by the governor. Then, on February 17, 1968, Murphy officially resigned from his position of chancellor and took the position of chief executive officer at Times Mirror.

            Franklin Murphy arrived in September 1968 to take up his duties at Times Mirror. The fact that a chancellor was selected to serve as a chairman and chief executive stunned many company officials. Furthermore, Murphy had never run a business, nor did he have experience managing a corporate enterprise of such size. Murphy underwent a transformation as he eased into a powerful role¡Xthe former university chancellor operated at the same level of power and prestige as many major businessmen who previously had been targets of his fund-raising. His world rapidly expanded as he was asked to join numerous civic organizations and corporate boards. Increasingly, leading figures in business, government, entertainment media, and the arts sought chances to become better acquainted with the new chairman. The Times Mirror Company gradually became a ¡§communications force responsible for leadership¡¨ as reporters working under Times covered and wrote articles pertaining to the intense 1968 presidential campaign.8 Subsequently in 1976, Times Mirror achieved its best year and stood on the threshold of becoming a billion-dollar enterprise. In spite of this, Times Mirror did falter when it, along with other publishing enterprises, tried to purchase urban newspapers, chains, and independents in order to increase profits and promote growth. Although Times Mirror lost several choice properties, industry observers ranked it the country¡¦s ¡§most profitable publicly held publishing company.¡¨9

            In 1970, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art board persuaded Murphy to accept the difficult role of museum president. Murphy was most concerned that the museum was an ¡§art museum without art.¡¨10 Franklin Murphy had a solution in mind¡Xto obtain the prized Norton Simon Collection, which had a market value of 150 million dollars. Ownership of Simon¡¦s collection, he believed, would be a magnet for future donations. However, Norton Simon demanded that Murphy meet his requirements before negotiations began about his collection. The board and the museum staff hurried to meet Simon¡¦s demands, but he was never satisfied. In spring of 1971, Simon stunned museum trustees with the announcement that he planned to sell more than seventy paintings and sculptures at an auction¡Xmost of which were already on loan to the museum. Murphy recognized that hope of obtaining Norton Simon¡¦s collection was dwindling. In 1971, Armand Hammer, an oil tycoon, boldly announced his plan to donate more than ten million dollars worth in paintings, including a world-famous Van Gogh piece to the Los Angeles County Museum. As his term as museum president was coming to a close, Murphy focused his energies on the museum¡¦s future. However, the museum suffered a ten percent cut in funds from the county after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978¡Xa ¡§$284,000 loss to the annual operating budget.¡¨11 Moreover, by 1985, Franklin Murphy had served for twenty-one years as a trustee of the National Gallery, a renowned institution founded by Andrew Mellon. As a chairman of the National Gallery, Murphy¡¦s best asset was its director, J. Carter Brown, who brought new enthusiasm and a fresh approach to his duties as director. Brown, like Murphy, was dedicated in making art accessible to a wide audience. When selecting works for exhibitions he arranged, referred to as blockbusters, Brown was far-ranging, in that he felt no need to confine the National Gallery¡¦s space with only old masters and familiar American works. In addition, Murphy thought of the National Gallery as ¡§America¡¦s finest example of the mix of public and private resources,¡¨ a partnership between the federal government and the American people.12 Murphy¡¦s reputation for clear thinking when in chaos was repeatedly tested in his performance on the various restless boards on which he served. Murphy¡¦s negotiations with Armand Hammer and Norton Simon took much of his prime years of his life, but he was left without the prizes he sought after. Despite the failure, Murphy was recognized as a prodigy in a world of trusteeship.

Franklin Murphy, Ed Carter, and Dorothy Chandler had formed an effective team as culture builders. The ¡§old guard¡¨ was being replaced by forceful corporate leaders whose fortunes were not from traditional sources like oil or land sales, but from financial services, entertainment, technology, and global trade.13 Murphy¡¦s authority in Los Angeles was still extensive, and though his influence rarely came to the attention of the general public, it was well known in corporate and academic circles. Murphy continued to make a notable difference in Los Angeles through the sponsorship of the Ahmanson Foundation, in which he was a trustee. The Ahmanson Foundation was found by Howard Ahmanson, a key figure in the power structure of Los Angeles. The foundation administered funds for the ¡§public welfare and for no other purpose.¡¨14 Murphy wanted each dollar of the millions that were donated to the community to serve as a way to activate constructive energies. When the foundation was in jeopardy with conflicting reports about the foundation¡¦s assets, Murphy protected the enormous financial assets of the foundation, and also guided the institution to a sense of purpose and humanistic goals. By guiding the overwhelmed institution through its most unstable time Murphy¡¦s greatest gift to Los Angeles gave was his stewardship of the Ahmanson Foundation.  By the 1990s, the foundation was contributing nearly 20 million dollars each year in local grants. Murphy took pleasure in the times he arrived on the scene to save an endangered city institution. One such rescue came when KCET, the city¡¦s only public television station, could not meet its monthly payroll and was forced to put its Hollywood studio up for sale. Vital Ahmanson Foundation support allowed for the station to continue for many years. Franklin Murphy, then, reached the mandatory age of retirement, seventy-five, in 1991. He had mastered the art of trusteeship during an exceptional period in Los Angeles when enthusiasm for cultural development allowed him to apply his managerial and scholarly talents. Perhaps the most emotional event for Murphy¡Xthe ¡§realization of twenty-nine years of promise and planning¡¨¡Xwas the long-awaited opening of the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.15 As a chancellor in the 1960s, when sensitivity to world cultures was drawing the attention of scholars and activist students, Murphy envisioned the launch of the museum to fill an obvious gap in the study of cultural history in non-Western traditions. Then in the fall of 1993, Murphy was diagnosed with acute cancer of the mouth and jaw. Even with his health deteriorating, Murphy continued to take pleasure in dispensing grants as a trustee of the Ahmanson Foundation. Soon, his cancer spread to his lungs and Murphy died in his hospital bed at the UCLA Medical Center on June 16, 1994. His legacy and memory continues in the institutions he fostered. His desire to see cultural centers as a ¡§home for the humanities¡¨ merged with his belief that building steadily on cultural awareness was part of the ¡§path to civic harmony.¡¨16

            Through her book, Margaret L. Davis introduces a man who is hardly known, but has helped develop one of the largest cities and counties today. Davis praises Franklin Murphy for his contributions to the city of Los Angeles and his enormous managerial ability to advance Los Angeles into a cultural and artistic crossroads. Davis believes Murphy was a man who has done more to ¡§shape the cosmopolitan cultural image¡¨ of Los Angeles than any other person of his generation.17 However, Davis¡¦s focus is not only Murphy, but also on the growth of Los Angeles as a cultural center with Murphy playing an integral part in transforming the city into a modern metropolis. From a ¡§cultural backwater¡¨ to a ¡§vibrant center¡¨ for the arts, Murphy transformed the city by opening two of California¡¦s largest and most well-known museums ¡V the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the National Gallery, and developing the University of California system. Murphy¡¦s array of positions and roles allowed him to influence the worlds of not only artistic institutions, but extend also to academia and journalism.

            Davis seems to forgive Murphy for many of his faults, such as his bad temper, which he often took out on his employees. It also seems she glosses over his extra-marital affairs, giving few hints of the passion or angst of Murphy¡¦s personal life. The ease with which she dismisses them leaves the reader wondering what other parts of Murphy¡¦s life may also be omitted. Also, Davis¡¦s work suffers from her ¡§inattention to the other type of culture inherent to Los Angeles¡¨, for instance, the film industry; instead, Davis keeps her focus on fine arts, good books, and classical music.18 Davis explains the dealings of the urban elite as they negotiated the world of high art, but ignores the film industry which also shaped the metropolis. Margaret L. Davis also views Franklin Murphy detachedly, telling of his intellectual skill with subtle separation from his wealthy contemporaries. Davis writes in the tone similar to diplomatic historiography because she sounds like a realist¡Xdiscussing a person who cultivated a city into its vibrant self today.

            In Emily E. Straus¡¦s review of Margaret L. Davis¡¦s book, Straus deems that Davis¡¦s book will be of interest to urban historians, especially those who ¡§study how decisions are made in cities¡¨ and how ¡§individuals can help shape these decisions.¡¨19 Straus states that Davis not only tells the history of Murphy, but also offers insight into the histories of such disparate subjects such as Dorothy Chandler, the Ford Motor Company, the Nixon presidency, and UCLA. By doing so, she shows the interconnectedness of the media, the arts, politics, business, and academia, while illustrating how personal relationships and connections play central roles in the workings.  Straus also mentions that by understanding the bonds made through the personal relationships one will fully understand Murphy¡¦s position of being a culture broker, a middleman emphasizing commercial aspects and facilitating the crossing of one group from one culture into another.

In another review, Jim Newton, an editor from the Los Angeles Times, states that Davis¡¦s examination of Los Angeles through the lives of its civic and cultural leaders is a ¡§significant, if imperfect, contribution.¡¨20 Newton believes Davis¡¦s work supplies the residents of Los Angeles with an understanding of themselves and simultaneously, delivers subtle messages for today¡¦s leaders. To Newton, not only is the Culture Broker a book about the formation of Los Angeles, but also a jolting reminder of how much the city¡¦s cultural and corporate leadership has changed from the days of Murphy¡¦s dominance. Newton believes Margaret L. Davis¡¦s book is useful not only in presenting how Murphy led Los Angeles, but also in introducing a standard for today¡¦s leaders to meet.

            Davis provides deep insight into the transformation of Los Angeles and the lives of the people who had major influences on the development of the city into a cultural focal point. To have gone through ¡§extensive research, papers, numerous oral history interviews¡¨, Davis surely conquered a ¡§large task.¡¨21 Davis presents a book about a man who dedicated more than half his life into advancing the city of Los Angeles. Through him, the University of California system has been influenced so that, for example, UCLA and UC Berkeley are on par financially. By reading her book, readers will be able to appreciate the works of Franklin Murphy and be able to understand how long and how much effort it takes for a city to mature.

            But today, Franklin Murphy is still a not well known person. However, Franklin Murphy deserves to be recognized by all throughout California for his undying determination and dedication of evolving Los Angeles¡¦s cultural and artistic scene; also for guiding Los Angeles through an ¡§era of radical change that rejected the creed of the modern.¡¨22 With the help of others, Murphy was able to bring vibrancy to a city that was once dull and superficial. By introducing the appreciation of art, culture, and music by ways of museums and music halls, the city of Los Angeles diversified in its appreciation of the arts.


1. Kurzman, Dan. Disaster! The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. New York: HarperCollins 1. Davis, Margaret Leslie. The Culture Broker: Franklin D. Murphy and the transformation of Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. xi.

2. Davis, Margaret Leslie xi.

3. Davis, Margaret Leslie 1.

4. Davis, Margaret Leslie 4.

5. Davis, Margaret Leslie 25.

6. Davis, Margaret Leslie 27-28.

7. Davis, Margaret Leslie 55.

8. Davis, Margaret Leslie 130.

9. Davis, Margaret Leslie 174.

10. Davis, Margaret Leslie 210.

11. Davis, Margaret Leslie 230.

12. Davis, Margaret Leslie 244.

13. Davis, Margaret Leslie 355.

14. Davis, Margaret Leslie 112.

15. Davis, Margaret Leslie 347.

16. Davis, Margaret Leslie 389.

17. Davis, Margaret Leslie 393.

18. Straus, Emily E. Review of the Culture Broker: Franklin D. Murphy and the Transformation of Los Angeles, by Margaret Leslie Davis. H-Urban, H-Net Reviews Feb. 2008. 31 May 2008 <http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=38351204047140>.

19. Straus, Emily E.

20. Newton, Jim. "Prince of the City." Los Angeles Times 2008. 28 May 2008 <http://articles.latimes.com/2007/09/23/features/bk-newton23>.

21. Straus, Emily E.

22. Davis, Margaret Leslie 392.