Yale University

In Memoriam

Frank Fowlkes

Frank Fowlkes
1964 graduation

On this page are the following writings:

Reflections by Mac Deford, Class of '64

Frank Fowlkes died in mid-February. He learned he had lung cancer last May; they initially gave him chemo with the hope of reducing the tumor to enable them to operate, but although treatment continued until almost the end, it was never effective enough for an operation and it was long clear that, barring a miracle, the cancer would kill him.

I talked to Frank often during the period and saw him as well. His impending death never seemed to faze him. Even when he called me ten days before he died to say the doctor had recommended they quit all treatment ― in effect, ending what had been keeping him alive ― he remained as always, casual, slightly detached, and with his sense of humor and irony firmly intact.

His funeral was packed. I've enclosed a copy of the nice obituary from the Washington Post. As his wife Flossie said to me about the article, "Frank would have acted as if he didn't care about it, but in fact he would have been quite pleased with it." And deservedly so.



The Washington Post
February 18, 2000

Frank V. Fowlkes Dies at 58; Public Policy Consultant and Novelist

Frank Vaughan Fowlkes, a Commerce Department speechwriter and pharmaceutical association official who spent the last 15 years as an independent consultant to lobbying and law firms, died of lung cancer Feb. 16 at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 58.

He also had written suspense novels and worked as a Washington reporter.

As a consultant and as vice president of communications for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in the early 1980s, Mr. Fowlkes persuaded newspaper editorial boards in key congressional districts to support specific legislation.

He was a charismatic, athletic former journalist at Congressional Quarterly and National Journal, and he was among the most sought-after practitioners of public policy persuasion.

Jon Blake, a senior communications lawyer at Covington & Burling who hired Mr. Fowlkes to advocate for communications issues, said Mr. Fowlkes was successful because he knew whether a topic was palatable to the press.

Mr. Fowlkes knew his credibility depended on what he could sell, and he would reject a project because "that's not the sort of thing people [do] when they need to put bread on the table," Blake said.

John Fox Sullivan, publisher of National Journal and a friend since both attended Yale University in the 1960s, said Mr. Fowlkes candidly told editorial boards what he was there to do but used his ironic wit, economics prowess and general frankness to disarm the editors.

One major bill he helped get enacted affected the drug industries' drug approval process. The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, for which he generated interest among 100 editorial boards nationwide, allowed brand drug businesses to regain exclusive patent rights for time lost during the regulatory review process. It also let generic drug producers accelerate their federal testing requirements.

"I'm not selling magic," Mr. Fowlkes told the New York Times in a 1986 profile. "I'm selling a fair hearing for a good idea."

Mr. Fowlkes was born in Richmond and grew up in New Haven, Conn. He graduated from Yale in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in American studies.

After college, he worked at Morgan Guaranty Bank in New York and as a reporter at the Montgomery County Sentinel and Congressional Quarterly.

In 1969, he was among the first six reporters at National Journal, where he covered economics until he joined the Commerce Department in the early 1970s as a speechwriter for commerce secretaries Pete Peterson and, under President Carter, Juanita Kreps.

In 1976, he wrote the first of two published economic-espionage novels, "The Peruvian Contracts," published by G. P. Putnam's Sons. His second work, "Majendie's Cat," was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1986.

Of the latter book, a reviewer for Newsday wrote, "Fowlkes takes neither himself nor his character too seriously. He concocts a dandy intrigue. It's plausible, well-researched and superbly told." In The Washington Post, reviewer Frances A. Koestler called the tale a "crisply crafted cliffhanger."

His hobbies included golf, tennis and skiing.

His marriages to Constance Wolf Fowlkes and Frances Barnard ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Florence Bryan Fowlkes of Chevy Chase; three children from his first marriage, Dudley Vaughan Fowlkes of Bangor, Pa., and Paschal Dupuy Fowlkes and Van Velsor Wolf Folkes, both of New York City; a son from his second marriage, Davis Williams Fowlkes of San Antonio; a stepson, Bryan Knowles Wisner of Chevy Chase; mother and stepfather, Elizabeth Miller and Randolph Crump Miller of New Haven; a sister, Rives Fowlkes Carroll of Washington; and four stepsisters.


Remembrance of Frank Fowlkes at our 40th Reunion

by Mac Deford

Frank Fowlkes grew up just about a mile north of here. We met in the fall of 1959 when we were roommates on the old Queen Mary heading for a post-graduate high-school year in England before Yale. The cabin we shared had double-decker beds, just like Yale, and the room was about as big as one of the pews here. So we got to know each other pretty well. Frank and I remained roommates for 4 more years at Yale where he started dating a childhood friend of mine, Connie Wolf, whom he married a few years after graduation. His third wife, Flossie Bryan, whom he was married to when he died, was also a childhood friend of mine. One of my roles in life, I guess, was to provide Frank with wives.

Frank died of lung cancer in February 2002. A bunch of us had been going to the Bahamas together for some years and when we were there in February of 1999, Frank had an obvious and persistent cough that he had had checked before he came down. Somehow nothing had showed up and when he went back for another look in May, they told him he indeed had cancer ― and that at the stage it was, it would prove fatal.

Frank had never known his real father, who had been killed in WW ll. His mother remarried, to Randy Miller, a professor at the Divinity School here at Yale, so Frank grew up in a large, happy family with his sister and four stepsisters. But perhaps that brush with death at such an early age gave him the ironic, almost detached outlook on life that he had had as long as I knew him.

I don't know how most people, including myself, would deal with one's impending death at a relatively early age. His was not the Dylan Thomas "rage, rage against the dying of the light" approach. Frank had an unusual quality about him that you might term 'sweet cynicism.' He had always been a dreamer, a romantic, but he had a realistic, tough side as well. We were talking about religion, belief, God, etc. the last time I visited him about two months before he died. "Well, you know," he said, "I've never been a believer in any of that. It would be somewhat hypocritical under the circumstances to start now, don't you think?" No battlefield conversion for Frank.

Frank retained his humor until the end, which came relatively suddenly. Up to a few weeks before he died, he and Flossie were still talking about the possibility of joining us for the annual trip to the Bahamas. In my last conversation with him ― after the doctor had taken him off all treatment except the morphine ― I said, sort of in exasperation, "Is there anything in the world I can do for you?"

"Well," Frank answered, "how about changing places?"