Community leaders, elected officials, dignitaries, family and friends packed West Los Angeles Church of God in Christ in the Crenshaw District this week to bid farewell to John Mack, a longtime Southland civil-rights leader hailed for shaping the future of the community and fostering relations between residents and police.
Mack, 81, died June 21 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mack 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 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,’’ said former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at the service. “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 speaking 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.’’
Dodgers co-owner and former Laker Ervin “Magic” Johnson, now the latter 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.
“… 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,’’ Johnson 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.
“… We today hold him up for the difference he has made in the lives of the Urban League movement and in the life of the people of Los Angeles,’’ he said. “But I want to underscore this fact — John Mack was a great father. John Mack was a great grandfather.’’