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Former state lawmaker John Quimby dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Former lawmaker John Quimby, who was elected to the state Assembly when serving in the Legislature was a part-time job and later spent decades as a local government lobbyist, has died.

His daughter, Kimberly Quimby, told The Associated Press on Friday that her father died Dec. 23 at Mercy San Juan Medical Center from complications of pneumonia, at age 77. He had been living in his home in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael until being hospitalized.

A Democrat, John Quimby was elected to the Assembly in 1962. He represented parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties for 12 years until being defeated for re-election in 1974. Among his top legislative achievements was a 1965 law requiring developers to create or pay for local parks when their projects were approved.

His daughter said he credited his re-election defeat with persuading him to become sober after years of alcoholism. Afterward, he lobbied for San Bernardino and Riverside counties, retiring in 2011.

``He loved his time in the Legislature. He once said that it was in his blood,'' Kimberly Quimby said. ``When he lost his election in the `70s, he got sober after that. Then he just lobbied for the rest of his life because he loved politics. That's what he was made to do.''

During his years in the Capitol, Quimby was known as outgoing and witty, sometimes upsetting his colleagues with his retorts. ``Quimby can outtalk friend, foe,'' read the headline over a 1973 feature story about him in The Sunday Sun-Telegram of San Bernardino.

The story quoted him as saying he believed one of the most important jobs of a lawmaker was not to sponsor bills, but rather ``to help kill a lot of the legislation we see around here.''

He contracted polio at age 12 and used a wheelchair during his later years in the Capitol, an era before access for the disabled was required. The airline he flew between Sacramento and his Southern California district, for example, implemented a rule prohibiting its employees from assisting heavyset passengers in wheelchairs.

Quimby, who weighed 250 pounds at the time, told the San Bernardino newspaper he had to arrange for aides, firefighters or court marshals to assist him at the Ontario airport. Yet he never let his disability get in the way of his ambitions, his daughter said.

``He told me he never felt crippled until now because his health was going downhill,'' she said.

A native of Prescott, Ariz., Quimby moved to California with his family in 1941, later working as a radio and television announcer. He was elected to the San Bernardino City Council at age 22 and ran for the Legislature a few years later.

In addition to the local parks legislation, he also championed open government. He co-authored an unsuccessful bill in 1969 that would have required the Assembly to hold all its meetings in public.

After the legislation was killed, Quimby issued a news release saying the ``right of the people to know should be mandatory at whatever level of government.''

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