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Lionel Van Deerlin
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Clair Burgener
Succeeded by Duncan Hunter
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Bob Wilson
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
Personal details
Born July 25, 1914
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died May 17, 2008(2008-05-17) (aged 93)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Southern California (B.A., journalism, 1937)
Occupation Journalist, newspaper columnist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941–1945
Unit Field Artillery
Battles/wars World War II Mediterranean Theater

Lionel Van Deerlin (July 25, 1914 – May 17, 2008) was an American politician who served as a Democratic United States Representative from California from 1963 to 1981, representing a San Diego area district.


Born in Los Angeles, California, Van Deerlin graduated from Oceanside High School of Oceanside, California in 1933 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Southern California in 1937, where he was editor of the Daily Trojan.[1][2]

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 Italy. After the war, he was a journalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Baltimore, Maryland.

Van Deerlin moved to San Diego 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 XETV, then the ABC affiliate in San Diego, and later moved to NBC affiliate KFSD-AM-FM-TV. After he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1958, he became newscaster and news director for XETV in Tijuana-San Diego.[3]

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 University and had a weekly column (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.[4]


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


  1. "2006 Hall of Fame Honorees". Oceanside High School Foundation/Alumni Association. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  2. "VAN DEERLIN, Lionel, (1914 - 2008)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  3. Broadcasting magazine, Sept. 14, 1959, p. 110.
  4. Michael Kinsman (May 17, 2008). "Congressman, columnist Lionel Van Deerlin dead at 93". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 

External links[]

United States House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 37th congressional district

Succeeded by
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 41st congressional district

Succeeded by
Bob Wilson
Preceded by
Clair Burgener
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 42nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Duncan Hunter

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