John Van de Kamp, the former California attorney general who served as president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, died March 14, according to the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times. He was 81.
An attorney and a former federal public defender, Van de Kamp served as California's attorney general in the 1980s and unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state in 1990. In 1996 he joined TOC, then left in 2004 when he was elected president of the State Bar of California. Most recently, Van de Kamp served as counsel in Mayer Brown LLP's Los Angeles office.
The late Ed Friendly, TOC's founder and first president, turned over the day-to-day operations to Van de Kamp in 1996. He brought his considerable legal knowledge to bear on such difficult subjects as advance-deposit wagering, workers' compensation, and horsemen's purse agreements with state racetracks. During his tenure, Van de Kamp also served on the board of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Though Van de Kamp demonstrated a sober and serious side at such venues as representing TOC at California Horse Racing Board meetings, he loved every aspect of the racetrack. Mornings would often find him at Clockers' Corner at Santa Anita Park, talking with horsemen and watching workouts. At Hollywood Park, Van de Kamp liked to take a brief break from his duties mid-card to frequent the track's ice cream stand. He also owned an occasional horse or two with partners and was known to make modest wagers, delighted when he backed a winner.
"John has, through both difficult and peaceful times, distinguished himself as a man of intellect, reason, fairness, and integrity," said Ron Charles, when Van de Kamp stepped down at TOC. Charles, later president of the Los Angeles Turf Club at Santa Anita, was serving as TOC chairman at the time.
"I am proud of so much of what we have done," Van de Kamp said when he left TOC, "and I certainly haven't done it alone. We've had some very thoughtful members of the board who have contributed tremendous amounts of time and energy to TOC."
Philip Recht, a partner at Mayer Brown, told the Sacramento Bee upon hearing news of Van de Kamp's death, "It was a treat to have him here. He was a very special guy. I don't think there's anyone who's had a career like this in the law."
Van de Kamp is survived by his wife, Andrea, and daughter, Diana.