William Elkins, a special assistant to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and one of his closest friends and trusted political advisors for decades, died recently of congestive heart failure. He was 90.
When Bradley became the first African American mayor of Los Angeles in 1973, Elkins was one of the first people he requested to join his administration, and Elkins stayed the entire 20 years Bradley was in office.
Elkins was known as Bradley’s eyes and ears in the African American community, and one of his main tasks was monitoring affirmative action. When Bradley originally came into office, the Los Angeles City government was almost completely White, but with the help of Elkins and the rest of his administration by the time his term ended in 1993, Bradley left behind what was called, “one of the world’s most diverse workforces.”
Elkins was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, on January 20, 1920 to William and Virginia Elkins.
He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1933, where he became fast friends with Bradley at Lafayette Junior High School. The two stayed friends all the way through to college at UCLA and upon joining Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity together.
In the middle of his college career, Elkins had to leave to serve four years in the United States Army in Italy during World War II. He later returned to UCLA to finish his education and received a bachelor’s degree in political science. He also earned a degree from Southwestern University School of Law.
In 1967, Elkins became the director of Teen Post, a program that targeted troubled inner city youth by way of recreation. When he became director, Elkins strived to change the program’s direction to focus more on education. He remained in that position until he went to work for Bradley.
After Bradley left office, Elkins joined the board of directors for the Thomas Spiegel Family Foundation, a non-profit organization and eventually became the vice president, before he retired a few years ago.
In addition to his wife, Eleanor, whom he married in 1945, Elkins is survived by two sons, Bill and Larry, and two grandchildren.
Services were held at Second Baptist Church, 2412 Griffith Ave., Los Angeles.
Max Palevsky, a computer executive and arts philanthropist who helped finance various political campaigns, including Bradley’s first successful run for mayor of Los Angeles, also died recently in Beverly Hills at age 85 of heart failure.
Born to Polish immigrant parents in Chicago, Palevsky worked as a computer logic designer at Bendix Corp. and as director of Packard Bell Computer Corp. before founding Scientific Data Systems Inc. in 1961.
The Xerox Corp. acquired the company for a reported $1 billion eight years later, and Palevsky became a director and chairman of the Xerox executive committee. He retired in 1972.
In the ensuing years, he helped found Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, and served as a director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Constitutional Rights Foundation and People for the American Way.
He also became a director and board chairman of Rolling Stone magazine, revitalizing the then-struggling publication by buying a substantial share of the stock.
Palevsky produced several films, including “Marjoe,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1973, Costa Gavras’ “State of Siege,” Marcel Ophuls’ “Sense of Loss,” “Island in the Stream” and “Fun with Dick and Jane,” according to his family.
He also helped finance films, including Terrence Malick’s “Badlands.”
Palevsky, a Los Angeles resident since 1950, used much of his fortune to build major art collections and finance political campaigns, including Bradley’s 1973 mayoral run.
An early supporter of George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, Palevsky also backed the presidential runs of Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and was also a backer of former Gov. Gray Davis.
In addition to his wife, Palevsky is survived by his sister Helen Futterman; his son Nicholas; daughter Madeleine and son-in-law Jeff, and their children Penelope, Jimmy and Sonny; his son Alexander and daughter-in-law Alison and their son Miles; his son Jonathan and Jonathan’s fiancee Lindsay May; his son Matthew; and step-son Jan Krajewski III.