LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A “who’s who” of Los Angeles gathered Tuesday to say a fond farewell to civil rights icon John Mack.
Community leaders, elected officials, dignitaries, stars, family and friends — about 2,000 in all — packed a Los Angeles church to say goodbye to Mack, 81, who died June 21 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
He served as president of the Los Angeles Urban League from 1969 until his retirement in 2005, when he was named president of the Board of Police Commissioners of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mack was often credited with being a bridge between the black community and police department through volatile times. He also co-founded Los Angeles Black Leadership Coalition on Education in 1977 and was later appointed vice president of the United Way Corporation of Council Executives.
“To the Mack family, God bless you,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said during the funeral service at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. “My heart is ripped by this and I know when I look around the room … all of us feel the same thing. All of us feel like we’ve touched greatness and it left us too early. Even though John lived a full life beyond compare, all of us feel that we personally were cheated by not having more time with him.”
Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and incoming Chief Michel Moore were also among those who shared remarks at the service, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“This nation of Los Angeles has been built by many people,” Garcetti said. “This is one of our founding fathers. … Racial justice, economic opportunity, procedural equity for all people — how do you feel that? How do you build it? This man was a great carpenter. This man was a great builder of Los Angeles and is one of the founding fathers of the new Los Angeles.”
Garcetti said Mack helped unite the city, and “now it is up to us to make sure that we keep walking together.”
Former Laker Magic Johnson, now the team’s president of basketball operations, hailed Mack’s contributions to the Los Angeles community.
“John was there to share every special moment of my life, but also the tough times too,” Johnson said. “When I announced HIV, he cried like a baby. I remember that like it was yesterday. But he was right there with me.”
Johnson added, “We really had a lot of good times. So, as I’m sad, but I’m happy. I’m happy because John left his mark on this city,” he said.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said that when he learned of Mack’s death, he contacted his predecessors who had worked closely with Mack, and they all said he ran “the model Urban League affiliate.”
“To a person, they described the man who, if he had chosen, would have been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” Morial said. “If he had chosen, he could have been the mayor of Los Angeles. And I dare say if he had chosen, he could have been Obama before Obama.
“You see … what he represented was this generation,” he said.
“This generation born in the segregated South. I think when his mom and dad named him John Wesley Mack, after the great Methodist leader who was also an abolitionist, they marked him for destiny.”