Beginning count: 3,765
Total: 3,975 since July 7th, 2015
Let me preface this blog post by saying that there was a female Police Commissioner for the city of Los Angeles before Marguerite Justice. The first female to sit on the Los Angeles board of Police Commissioners was Agnes Albro, who took the seat in 1946. Justice took her seat at the commission in 1971, a seat that Mayor Sam Yorty appointed her to. At the time, Yorty was quite proud of her appointment, stating that with her as the fifth member, the Police Commission would “retain its status of having at least three of its five members from ethnic groups.”
Justice’s appointment to the commission, and her lack of experience, drew a few eyebrows, including that of Bill Lane, the Los Angeles Sentinel’s Theatrical Editor, who wrote: “Marguerite Justice, now an L.A. police commissioner, might not have had prior training in police ways and means before taking her new job, but she surely must know all about being a secretary. For nine years, she was Linda Darnell’s secretary.”
Justice did in fact work for actress Linda Darnell for several years, crediting Darnell with shattering Hollywood stereotypes and racial prejudice by hiring a black private secretary. Working for Darnell afforded Justice the ability to travel around the world, a practice that she gave up when she married William H. Justice (and acquired the AMAZING last name) in 1954. Marrying William allowed Marguerite to pursue her passion for community work.
It was her community work that ultimately caught Yorty’s attention. Marguerite was already part of the Hoover Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, the Southwest Division Police Department Advisory Committee, the Manual Arts High School Advisory Committee, the District Attorney’s Youth Council, and the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Youth Division, in addition to the Community Redevelopment Agency board, where she worked closely with Councilman Billy Mills.
Throughout her career, Justice was known for her sensitivity to police oversight and minority communities. Ron Brown, a retired LAPD lieutenant, said Justice was “affectionately called ‘Mama J’ for her outreach effort to bring about change within the Police Department. She was really instrumental in helping . . . all minority officers.” Justice was so beloved that officers secretly changed her license plate to “Mama J” during a police function.
During the 1984 Olympics, Justice and her service group “The Sweethearts”, established a hospitality house for LAPD officers in the Southwest Division. The house was a 24 hour space that provided meals and facilities for showering and laundry, providing officers a respite from their grueling schedules. The house was paid for by The Sweethearts, merchants and other service clubs.
Her story as an African American Police Commissioner was dramatized in an episode of “Adam-12.” She died on September 17th, 2009 at the age of 88.
I’m adding this last picture, not only because its a great pic of Justice, but also because it demonstrates a phenomenon I will discuss later, wherein nearly everyone in the picture is staring at Tom Bradley.
Next up: I start working on the photos filed under the letter K:
Baker, Erwin. 1971. “Yorty Names Negro Woman to Police Commissioners Board.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Jan 26, 2-d1. http://ezproxy.lapl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/156564665?accountid=6749.
Lane, Bill Sentinel, Theatrical Editor. 1971. “People-Places ‘n’ Situwayshuns.” Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005), Mar 25, 1. http://ezproxy.lapl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/565008668?accountid=6749.
Nelson, Valerie J. “Marguerite P. Justice Dies at 88; First Black Woman to Serve on L.A. Police Commission.” Los Angeles Times. September 25, 2009. Accessed August 01, 2015. http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-marguerite-justice25-2009sep25-story.html.