Former City Representative Richard A. Doran, an active figure in the city's political and cultural life for the past 40 years, died suddenly Monday night, just after attending the Metropolitan Opera in New York City with his wife, Mary. He was 71.
For decades, Doran was regarded as one of Pennsylvania's most astute political strategists. But he was a man of wide, enduring interests who offered his piano-playing services at charity auctions and created an electronic shrine to Audrey Hepburn on his personal Web site.
Doran stepped down just last year as board chairman of the Curtis Institute of Music.
In the 1970s, as chief of staff to the late Gov. Milton J. Shapp, Doran was a critical figure in creating the Pennsylvania Lottery and getting the first state income tax through the Legislature, among other milestones.
"One of his great pleasures - at 65 he could ride the buses for free," thanks to the lottery program he helped create, his wife remembered yesterday.
In 1979, Doran helped William J. Green win election as mayor, and Doran spent the next four years as city representative and director of commerce.
Doran directed the city's tricentennial celebration in 1982, persuaded the owners of the Queen Elizabeth 2 to dock in Philadelphia and led a city delegation to Tianjin, China, whose artisans built the Friendship Gate at 10th and Race streets.
"In the family, we call it the Doran Memorial Gate," said one of his two sons, Richard.
Democratic political figures continued to seek out Doran's advice. In the last year, he counseled Bob Casey Jr. on his U.S. Senate race and Patrick Murphy on his congressional race in Bucks County. He was talking to mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah. And at the Pennsylvania Society dinner in New York last month, Doran had a word with Gov. Rendell about health care.
But Doran's interests went way beyond politics. Besides his lifelong love of music, he wrote a couple of novels. The more recent, still available on Amazon, is a satire on money and politics, It Takes a Villain, turned into a screenplay, so far unproduced.
"To me, he was like Jefferson, without the contradictions, and I'll never see the likes of him again," former Mayor Green said last night, remembering when he met Doran 50 years ago, preparing for a debate at St. Joseph's College.
"This fella I didn't know came into the room, saw a troubled look on my face and said, 'What's wrong, kid?' He was very helpful that day and we became friends," Green said. "It was the longest-lasting close friendship of my life. . . . I'm heartbroken."
Born at 73rd and Elmwood in Southwest Philadelphia, Doran graduated from St. Joseph's Preparatory School and St. Joseph's College. He did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, taught college English for several years and was drawn into politics by John F. Kennedy's campaign in 1960.
Shapp heard Doran give a speech for Kennedy and asked Doran, then in his mid-20s, to help him get elected governor.
Besides his wife and son Richard, in Philadelphia, Doran is survived by another son, Patrick, of Asheville, N.C., and two grandchildren.