“As a civil-rights advocate and the first Black woman to be elected to L.A. City Council, Ms. Walters was not only a pillar to this community but a model public servant. She inspired the minds of future generations of women of color to strive for their dreams and accomplish their goals regardless of their adversities,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“My sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of Rita Walters. My heart breaks for the community she so diligently served on the City Council and the Library Commission for over 15 years.”
“The passing of Rita Walters represents the passing of an era, the loss of a community icon, and a champion for educational excellence in the LAUSD,” said LAUSD Board Member George J. McKenna III. “She was also a model for all who sought equality and justice in many arenas.”
On Monday, February 17, Rita Walters passed away while in hospice care from Alzheimer’s disease. The 89-year-old paved an impressive road of firsts and civil rights activity with her life.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Walters moved with her parents and family to Kansas. The oldest of five children, her father was a pullman porter and her mother cleaned houses. Later on, she attended and graduated from Shaw University and eventually earned an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
She moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s, where she met her husband, Wilbur E. Walters. She found work as a clerk for the probation department. After teaching for a while, Walters would eventually run for a seat on the school board, but didn’t win until the third time. While on the school board, she fought for the busing program and placing Black students in schools in unintegrated areas.
Walters, served on the LAUSD board for more than a decade before being elected to the City Council. She went on to be the first Black woman elected to the Los Angeles City Council filling the 9th District seat left vacant by the 1990 death of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay.
On the city council, she raised her voice against police brutality, fought for economic empowerment and making sure her district was being served. She also chaired the Arts, Health and Humanities Committee, which reviewed matters related to the Library Department for the City Council.
“Sad to hear of the passing of Rita Walters, a model public servant who served our city passionately on the City Council and the Library Commission,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “Her leadership planted the seeds that have enabled downtown to blossom. My thoughts are with her loved ones during this time.”
“Rita was my friend and colleague with whom I collaborated for many years, through the days of school desegregation, student busing, staff integration and administrative leadership in schools who represent the culture of the students and parents,” said McKenna.
“She was a giant, not only as an elected official, but also as a dedicated community leader and parent advocate. She will be missed, and cannot be replaced, only emulated. I am honored to sit in her Board Seat.”
“To my dear friend and fellow City Council colleague, may you rest in peace. To her family, my thoughts and prayers are with you. May God continue to bless you and keep you during this difficult time,” said Ridley-Thomas.