Congresswoman Barbara Lee, left, with Ambassador Diane Watson. (Courtesy photo)


The Honorable Diane Edith Watson, Ph.D., celebrated her 90th birthday on November 12, and all throughout the week, Los Angeles honored her illustrious career of public service.

Watson’s career has been distinguished by her work on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board, her impactful legislation as a State Senator, her representation in the United States Congress, and service as a U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia.

Mayor Karen Bass and the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors designated Nov. 12-19 as Diane E. Watson Week.  Also, L.A. City Council and LAUSD Board issued formal proclamations declaring the weeklong observance.

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The celebration highlights included a reception at the Getty House, “A Lifetime of Public Service Reception” hosted by Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute, Our Authors Study Club, and others, and the Metro Board of directors naming the Crenshaw K Line stop at 43rd and Leimert the Ambassador Diane E. Watson Station.

Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas and Sen. Steven Bradford present proclamations to Watson. (Courtesy photo)

Other events include a public screening of the documentary, “Golden Hearted,” a film made in Watson’s honor. The Ethos Film Festival will also be presenting her with a special award. The week will conclude at West Angeles Church of God in Christ with a service acknowledging her lifetime achievements.

Diane, as she is affectionately known, is a native of Los Angeles, attending and graduating from 36th Street Elementary School, Foshay Junior High, and Dorsey High Schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Then she graduated from Los Angeles City College, California State University at Los Angeles, UCLA, Claremont Graduate College, and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dr. Mike Davis joins colleagues in saluting Watson. (Courtesy photo)

Watson became the first African American woman elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board in 1975, and in 1978, was the first African American woman elected to the California State Senate. In this position, Watson served on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee from 1981 through 1998.

Also, she advocated welfare reform and formulated legislation to implement the State of California’s TANF Program. In addition, she sought funding to assist teen mothers in completing their education and gaining employment through the Cal-Learn program.

President Bill Clinton appointed Watson as the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia in 1999. During her tenure, she was instrumental in stopping the illegal dumping of toxic and radioactive waste in the surrounding oceans. From 2001 to 2011, Watson served as U.S. Congresswoman for the 33rd Congressional District.

Several elected officials and community leaders have lauded Watson’s career.  She has received accolades from Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Councilmembers Heather Hutt and Hugo Soto-Martinez, Dr. George McKenna III, State Senators Lola Smallwood Cuevas and Steve Bradford, and U.S. Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove.