First Black mayor of Compton brought many changes to city
The city of Compton is continuing to pay tribute to Douglas Dollarhide, the first Black mayor and city councilman of Compton who died on June 28 at the age of 85.
The city has ordered that his body lie in state in the Council Chambers at City Hall to allow the citizens to pay final respects to their fallen hero, a man who brought great change during his time as mayor.
In June 1969, Dollarhide was elected mayor after previously serving as the first Black city councilman in Compton for six years. At that time of his inauguration, the city had a population of approximately 65 percent African-American and was the largest city west of the Mississippi to have elected a Black mayor.
Dollarhide was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, in March 1923, the son of a former slave, Thomas V. Dollarhide and Daisy Williams Dollarhide. He joined the army after moving to San Jose, California, in 1940 and served in the “Red Ball Express” battalion in Europe during World War II until 1945. Along with his wife, Eliza, and daughter, Barbara, Dollarhide settled in Los Angeles after the war. He attended Metropolitan Business College, Long Beach City College and received his law degree from La Salle University Law School.
In 1963, he was elected to the Compton City Council serving as chairman of the finance committee and representing the city at the League of California Cities. Then he was elected mayor of the city making history not only as the first Black mayor, but also as the first Black mayor of a major city in California.
During his four years as mayor, there was an exodus of Whites to the suburbs transforming Compton into a predominantly African-American city. It was a bittersweet experience, which resulted in a decline in property. However, it set the tone for a string of Black mayors for the rest of the 20th century that has survived to the present.
Mayor Eric Perrodin, the current mayor of Compton, was lavish in his praise for the man who pioneered the way for him. He said, “All the people in the city of Compton will mourn the passing of Mayor Douglas Dollarhide; he was the first Black mayor of the city of Compton. If it weren’t for him many elected officials such as myself would not be sitting in the seats we are sitting in now.”
“He was a trailblazer for Black politicians and his passing is going to be felt by all—not just by Blacks, but by everyone. He was a good leader in the city of Compton and he inspired many politicians to do what’s right for the citizens,” Perrodin added.
Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, whose political career had just begun when Dollarhide became mayor remembered him this way, “Douglas Dollarhide represented a politics that was very conciliatory. He was very approachable and always willing to help. He was a cultured man and most effective as the mayor of Compton.”
Nathaniel “Nat” Trives, a trailblazer himself who became the first Black mayor of Santa Monica, recalled moments with Dollarhide and others when they shared experiences as “first mayors.”
“As members of NBLEO (National Black Local Elected Officials) organization, I had great respect for him. Back in the days with Tom (Bradley) and Lionel Wilson (first Black mayor of Oakland), we were all in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Hearing about his death was a great shock and it’s a great loss of one of the pioneer African-American politicians in California,” Trives said.