Sunrise: Monday, May 3, 1971
Sunset: Wednesday, April 21, 2022
Kimberly Rachelle Willis Gagnier was a beloved wife, daughter, sister, and friend to many. Her personality and smile were infectious. She was brilliant, tenacious, and humble, offering kindness to everyone she encountered.
She was an outstanding community leader, dedicated to community service and philanthropic causes. A committed champion for positive change in the African American community, Kimberly began her life of service at an early age.
Kimberly and her high school sweetheart, Monte Gagnier, were married in December 2021.
Kimberly loved the arts, and her interest in sports, health and wellness stimulated her competitive participation in marathons and triathlons. She enjoyed traveling the world, exploring the people and cultures around the globe, and working tirelessly to share her passion for travel and commitment to youth. She was full of life and believed we could all make a difference in the community and around the world.
Kimberly attended the Westlake School for Girls (now Harvard-Westlake School), where she founded the Black American Culture Club, enabling young women to share their heritage with classmates. She graduated cum laude from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
Upon graduation, Kimberly immediately began law school at Howard as a Merit Scholar, where she served as a research assistant and participated in numerous activities. In addition, Kim was president of the Entertainment Law Students’ Association, a member of the Howard Law Journal, and the sole student member of the Student Affairs Committee. The University recognized her contributions to the quality of student life with the distinguished Dean’s Award for Leadership.
Kimberly’s dedication to public service began when she worked at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco. She volunteered in the Assemblywoman Maxine Waters for Congress Campaign in 1989-90 and traveled to the inauguration to assist in preparation for the celebration.
In 1998, she worked with the California Democratic Party’s California Coordinated Campaign as a campaign organizer, and in April 2003, she was elected president of the Association of Black City Attorneys. Emphasizing the importance of exposing youth to positive aspects of the judicial system, Kim initiated the Association’s “Classroom to Courtroom” program.
After law school, Kimberly returned to Los Angeles to begin her legal career by working at Community Build, Inc., a nonprofit development corporation founded by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and dedicated to bringing permanent and positive change to South Los Angeles. The organization targeted special Second Chance programming to ex-offenders and developed prevention and intervention programs as a Youth Fair Chance Program funded by the federal government.
As the contracts administrator, Kimberly assisted with program development and managed the Traffic Warrant Clean-Up Program. This program exposed Kimberly to the criminal courts and revealed the need for African American attorneys to participate in all facets of the judicial system. With clean records, former gang members could get jobs and participate successfully in society and support their families.
In January 1999, Kimberly joined the Criminal Division of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. She earned a reputation as a zealous advocate after successfully prosecuting seventeen jury trials in her first year. She moved on to the City Attorney’s prestigious Domestic Violence Unit in 2001 and was one of eighteen prosecutors selected to establish the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program in 2002. This program enables deputy city attorneys to volunteer with students through the court system.
In 2004, Kimberly continued her tenure as a public servant by joining the General Litigation Division. She has distinguished herself in defending the City of Los Angeles and its employees in civil lawsuits. Until her medical leave, she maintained a solid commitment to empowering, uplifting, and advocating for the African American community.
Kimberly was recognized as a distinguished alumna in the 2004 Howard Magazine entitled Leadership for America and the Global Community. She was a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of Links Inc., Black Women Lawyers, Black Women’s Forum, and the League of Women Voters and supported many other Black-led organizations.
Kimberly was a member of the Langston Bar Association where she served as the co-chair of the Youth Outreach Program. She was elected to serve as the president in 2015. During her tenure, she created innovative programs in local urban middle schools and high schools throughout her legal career to increase the number of African American students pursuing legal careers.
Kimberly is survived by her husband, Monte; father, Lorenzo; brother, Lorenz; sister, Linda; nieces, Elaina and Mizan; nephew, Zaki; and her circle of best friends, who loved and helped with her care.
Her celebration of life service is scheduled for Thursday, May 5, at 10 a.m., at Trinity Baptist Church, 2040 W. Jefferson Blvd, in Los Angeles where the Rev. Alvin Tunstill, Jr. is the senior pastor.