Dr. Bernice Woods, the Shining Eastern Star
She was a towering figure in Compton, on the city council, the school board, a gentle giant of Black womanhood and a living legend.
By Dr. Paulette Douglas
Bernice Woods was the eldest of five sisters, a little girl from Port Arthur Texas, raised by her Minister Grandfather and Grandmother who taught her the value of prayer and serving God. As a young girl, she did domestic work in Texas and always dreamed of improving her standard of living. Woods took every opportunity to move toward her goal. She knew in her heart that one day she would make a difference in this world and nothing could stop her but herself.
Woods met and married Melvin J. Woods (deceased) and they started a family. Along with their tow children, they settled in Watts, California. This began their journey together to improving their life style and building a strong family unit. More children were added to the Woods family; they bought a small house in the city of Compton, California and later purchased a much larger one in Compton to meet the needs of a rapidly growing family.
Woods remained a resident of the City of Compton to her last day.
A member of the Union Missionary Baptist Church, she served faithfully under Reverend Charity and Dr. Milton Marshall for over 60 years, and is known as a prayer warrior that can get a prayer through. The Woods raised their children in the church and every Sunday morning, there was a mandatory family prayer meeting. No matter what you were involved in during the week, early Sunday morning the entire household awaken by the loud sound of Woods singing the song “Amazing Grace”, which meant “Get up, its prayer time”.
Melvin loved her as only a man should love a woman and took every opportunity to show his love and support for her. He was the wind beneath her wings. Melvin was there to assist Woods in obtaining whatever her heart desired. His main quest in life was to make sure she was happy and secure.
His motto was “what ever Bernice wants, Bernice gets.” Together, they managed to obtain her goal of improving their standard of living and a strong family unit. They remained married for fifty-four years. In 1994 Melvin went home to be with the Lord. Woods never remarried. Good men are hard to find, especially one with the love and qualities of Mr. Melvin J. Woods Sr. Being a wife and mother of a very large family, attending school and colleges, while working a full time job over twenty years was not easy for Woods, but she was a woman of great faith and strength.
She has always been active in her community. Woods began by joining the school PTA when her children were small. She spent time working the Western Little League baseball team as a coach, and worked with the Pop Warner football teams. She was one of the people responsible for the first Pop Warner Franchise to be brought into the City of Compton. Famous ball players received their start by having the opportunity of playing in these leagues, such as Darryl Strawberry, Reggie Smith, Warren White, Wayne Simpson, Leonard Randell and many others. Because of her involvement with children, she is known as “Mama Woods: in the city of Compton.
Woods realized that by becoming involved in the community structure, she would have more opportunities to fulfill her desire to make a difference in the lives of people. She entered into the political arena and was elected to the Compton School Board where she served for 12 years. During that time she chaperoned Compton students to Hawaii and Mexico. Woods sponsored 3 of the students with her own funds. She spent quality time making positive change in the school district policies and the lives of the students.
In 1988, She decided to run for the Compton City Council and was elected as Councilwoman of the 3rd District. Woods began to make major improvements for her district by establishing The Education In The Park after school tutoring program for students. There were many other programs and projects established during her term that made a difference in the City of Compton.
Woods journeyed several times to Washington D.C. on behalf of the City of Compton and brought back millions of dollars to the city which improved the life standards of the people, school district and the City as a whole.
While Woods served as City Councilwoman, she also served as Mayor Pro-Team of the City of Compton. After her term on the city council, she was re-elected on the City of Compton School Board. Woods also served as Planning Commissioner for the City of Compton.
She worked with the Help All Agency for the City of Compton, The Mental Health Agency, as well as many other Volunteer positions. Woods has served the people and her community for over 30 years or more and is still trying to do something good for someone each day of her life.
Among her many other accomplishments, Woods is an Eastern Star and has faithfully served in many leadership positions as well as President of her Chapter. She is a past president on the National Council of Negro Women for the City of Compton Chapter. She was elected the first women president of the Lions Club and is listed in the book “Who’s Who In Black America”.
Woods was voted 2002 Mother of the year for the City of Lynwood. She received the 2003 Democrat of the Year Award for the 52nd Assembly District and also received the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Award the same year.
Throughout the years, Woods has received many honors and accolades for her outstanding contributions to her community, city, county and state from her peers and colleagues.
Woods was very active serving her community as President of the Community College Patrons. She served her state and the Democratic Party as an elected member of the 52nd Assembly District. She was also a Commissioner for the aging with the County of Los Angeles 2nd District for Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Supervisor. With all of this, she still found time for her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and was building a great legacy for them. Woods has touched the lives of many people and has mad a great impact in our society, thus achieving her goal as a little girl from Texas to improve her standard of living and make a difference in the world. She was a true legend in her own time.
Dr. Bernice Woods was a Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Educator, Politician, Community Leader, Fun Loving, Traveler, Activist, Stylist, and Prayer Warrior. “We love you, we salute you, we honor you and we appreciate all you have done to make a difference in our lives. Your dream has become a reality. We give all the Glory to our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ for you, ” according to her family.
Two of her colleagues on the city council gave the following comments.
Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun said: “As a member of the (Compton) City Council, she was a pioneer; she was about the people and the people’s people. She was for what was right; she did not tolerate any confusion and bickering. She was a woman of the ages and cared about her family and her community.”
And Dr. Willie Jones said: “As an educator, when I first started to work with Bernice Woods over 50 years ago, she was really a leader in the PTA, and she held local office, state office, and she was one who loved children. And she served on the Compton School District board and on the (Compton) city council; she was a strong member of the Eastern Star, but she was a leader and one who showed her love and care for this community all of her life. And she will be remembered forever.”
The memorial service for Dr. Bernice Woods will take place on Friday, March 25, at Emmanuel Temple, located at 3740 E. Imperial Hwy., Lynwood.
Her funeral will take place on Saturday, March 26, at 11:00 a.m. at the Union Missionary Baptist Church located at 1812 E. 110 Street (off Wilmington Ave.), Los Angeles.