Obituary: John P. Quimby Sr. was assemblyman, longtime lobbyist

12/29/2012 12:00 AM

12/28/2012 10:40 PM

John P. Quimby Sr., a former state legislator who went on to spend three decades as a lobbyist, died Sunday of complications related to pneumonia. He was 77.

Mr. Quimby's life and career in politics were in many ways shaped by polio, an illness that struck him at age 12 and forced him to rely on leg braces and, later, a wheelchair.

When his handicap put working in construction, as his brothers did, out of reach, he decided "he was going to have to utilize what he had," said his son John Quimby Jr.

"He knew his gift was his personality and his loud voice and his wit and all of that," the younger Quimby said in an interview Friday. "That's what drove him."

Mr. Quimby began his career in radio, working for several San Bernardino-area stations after high school. He went from interviewing political figures to becoming one himself when he won a seat at age 22 on the San Bernardino City Council. In 1962, he was elected to the state Assembly, where for more than a decade he represented a district covering parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

While a legislator, Mr. Quimby authored a namesake law in 1965 that required developers to set aside land or money for local parks. He enjoyed reminiscing about his time as a lawmaker, which was marked by the reign of then Assembly Speaker Jesse M. Unruh. But Mr. Quimby believed that losing a bid for re-election changed his life for the better, according to his family.

"Like Jesse Unruh, John was known for his wit, idealism, anger and irreverence and until 1976 his drunken excess," his family said in an obituary submitted to The Bee. "He attributed his 1974 political loss for saving his life."

After receiving treatment for alcoholism, Mr. Quimby returned to his work representing San Bernardino and Riverside counties, not as an elected official but as a lobbyist. He joined forces in the 1990s with Robert Presley, a fellow former Democratic legislator from the Inland Empire, and continued representing clients until he retired in 2011.

He was living in Carmichael at the time of his death.

The younger Quimby said his father's success as a lobbyist came from combining two of his trademark characteristics: a sharp sense of humor and a "bulldozing personality when needed."

"He was back in his element," he said. "At the Capitol, he got to be here with his friends and still have a voice and be a force to be reckoned with."


Born: Feb. 12, 1935

Died: Dec. 23, 2012

Survived by: Children, John Jr. and Kimberly Quimby; stepchildren, Kenny, Mary and Virginia George; seven grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; brother, Merle Quimby of Kingman, Ariz.

Services: Memorial, 1 p.m. Jan. 5 at Mission Oaks Community Center, 4701 Gibbons Drive, Carmichael.

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