For more than three decades, rare was the public meeting in Camden that did not include an appearance by Frank Fulbrook, who died Tuesday.
An eccentric who lived and labored with monastic diligence in a second-floor apartment adjacent to the Rutgers-Camden campus, Frank looked like a hippie, talked (lectured is probably a better word) like a professor and acted like a lawyer with only one client: The city he loved.
Frank usually represented himself in those pesky, persnickety lawsuits he filed over the years. But the man really believed he was pursuing not his own, but Camden’s best interests, not only in courtrooms but in the countless hours of meetings -- in City Hall and citywide - where he stood with his thick stack of materials, asking yet another question and making one further point.
Frank didn’t want any more of the city to be torn down, so he sued to save buildings. He was weary of watching business districts shrivel and die, so he sued to stop the city’s curfew on commerce. And he sued to ban billboards, saying they despoiled the landscape of a place in which he still saw a beauty worth defending.
Frank was a blue-collar gadfly who studied public policy and earned a degree from Rutgers; a political outlier who evolved into something of an insider; and a personally abstemious advocate of decriminalizing drugs. In other words, a complicated character in a complicated place -- a place, a community, and a city all richer for his singular public service, and now poorer for his passing.
Rest in peace, Frank.