By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer
Compton’s Ledia Deville has seen enough history to fill up a lifetime and a half. The evolution of the car and airplane, the Great Depression, the first feature film, the early stages of jazz music, the sinking of the Titanic, and every Black boxing heavy weight champion.
Deville was born in Ville Platte, Louisiana, in 1902, making her 107 years old, and has lived in Compton since the 1960s. Deville is Creole, so she does not speak much English. Like all the residents in Ville Platte, Deville speaks French.
Deville, like many other Black children her age, did not attend school, but she was business savvy. In the 1940s Deville won a washing machine from Sears and Roebuck. With that one machine Deville started her own business washing other people’s clothes. At the time Deville was one of the first people, Black or White, to have a washing machine in her area.
For the most part Deville has been healthy. In the 1930s she overcame tuberculosis, which at the time was a very deadly disease. In the 1940s she had a stroke, but after overcoming that she hasn’t had any major illnesses.
Growing up Deville, like any other Black person living in the Deep South during that time period, had problems with the White residents in the town because Blacks did not have nearly the same opportunities. It was tough to receive a proper education, or obtain a good job.
Deville grew up listening to Zydeco, which is a form of Cajun music. It evolved in Southwest Louisiana from forms of Louisiana Creole music.
Deville is not the only Ville Platte resident to move to Southern California. A number of them moved to Compton and Gardena after World War II.
Deville was married three times, once to a former slave, which could make her the only surviving widow of a former slave. Her husband was born in 1841 and served in the Civil war.
Deville was the mother of five children, one of which is still living and takes care of her. She has 22 grand children, 46 great-grand children, and 20 great-great grand children. She still can walk around on her own, and she is still sharp and articulate. She is able to receive good care and healthy meals from Dickison CafÅ½, who serve hot meals to senior citizens.
Deville’s is headed for Las Vegas to visit one of her grand children that she has never met before, and she will also be able to meet four of her great-grand children. Seeing that she is still healthy, she could have a number more trips in her future.