Celebrating a human rights legend...
Celes King III
September 18, 1923 - April 12, 2003
Celes King’s final journey began on April 19, when thousands paid their respects to the man who was revered as a champion of civil rights, an activist, a brigadier general and war hero, and a leader who steadfastly dedicated himself to his community for more than half a century.
Celes King III defied convention in death as in life.
He came to Los Angeles in 1938, after his family purchased the Dunbar Hotel, which became a center for the African-American community. Among those who stayed at the hotel when they visited Los Angeles were Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, A. Phillip Randolph, Ester Young, and W.E.B. DuBois.
Enlisting in the Army Air Corps at the onset of World War II, Celes became a member of the legendary all-African American Tuskegee Airmen’s Squadron.
In 1951, he and his father started the bail bond service, and so grew his concern for justice, a concern that would make his voice one of the country’s strongest and most effective in the advancement of civil rights. He served as chairman of the Human Relations Committee during the administration of LA Mayor Sam Yorty and later helped to found the Brotherhood Crusade of Los Angeles, launch the Annual Kingdom Day Parade and build The Rumor Control Network. As the state chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) for 12 years, he proved a powerful voice against all forms of intolerance.
“This man — brigadier general, politician, leader, organizer, educator — was an extraordinary person who gave his life to public service.”
— Rep Maxine Waters, US Congress
In our tribute to Celes King, Freedom shares the thoughts and words of those who today are more inspired to carry on in the name of greater human dignity, thanks to all he has done for this community and the nation.
Whenever there was a cause to be fought or an injustice to be corrected, you could find Celes King there — a great American, a great American hero, a civil rights leader, a business leader... I know that he would like to be remembered, as Dr. Martin Luther King wanted himself to be remembered: Celes King, a drum major for justice.
Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch
President, Church of Scientology International
Before you, the author of the universe, we gather here not to mourn, but to celebrate the life of our friend, our confidant, the peacemaker, Celes King.
We celebrate the decades of his service, his warmth and smiles, his acts in service to others. We are thankful for the time we were able to journey with him.
We pray that we continue to recognize the power of his spirit, that we do not diminish it with time, or dilute it with our fear of loss. Let us celebrate the richness of his life now and into the future.
We move from the darkness of his passing into the light, knowing that he is not flesh, that he continues.
We give thanks for his fierce determination to preserve the rights granted under the United States Constitution. Celes King knew that it was written for all people.
We celebrate his strength and courage in standing for the rights of those that others sought to diminish. He gave help to the voices that sounded like the trumpets at Jericho, voices that spoke louder than those raised in opposition to equality, voices that rang out “Freedom!” and broke down those walls that were closed against color...
Let the ledgers of Celes King’s life of service remain open, so that those who have journeyed with him continue to enrich others with his spirit, against the winds of racism, indifference, and yes, against the status quo voices chanting “that’s just the way it is.”
Some pilots went on to break the sound barrier. Celes King and others of the Tuskegee Airmen went on to break the barriers of color and the obstacles to human rights.
Brigadier general, father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend to all: Celes King...
— James Hahn,
Mayor of Los Angeles
I wanted to be here today to honor my friend for over 40 years. This man — brigadier general, politician, leader, organizer, educator — was an extraordinary person who gave his life to public service. He was committed to doing everything possible to see that there would be equal rights for people who had been denied for so long... I love Celes King, I love what he’s done for this city and I love the fact that he absolutely knew what it was all about and dared to pursue the mission of justice and equality.
— Maxine Waters,
U.S. House of Representatives
Celes King was a mover and a shaker, a bold courageous hero who understood what it meant to be a fighter for civil rights, who founded CORE, who [never] at any time forgot what his mission was. He was always there for you and for the cause. He was a person that was bigger than life. And as he passes into the ether, just know that he is still there.
— Dr. Diane Watson,
U.S. House of Representatives
Celes King was somebody who was constantly encouraging the youth and everyone around him to do better, to strive for higher goals, to attain your highest potential and then go beyond... He embodied the principles of equality and fairness and access to the court system for all people. This was what was reflected throughout his life, in his military career, in his profound commitment to the African-American community.
— Karen Chappelle,
Deputy Attorney General, State of California
What I always appreciated about him is that he defied all of the stereotypes. You think about him — when he’s black, he’s very black. A Republican, an aviator, a person that was truly a business person that impacted the industry nationally, a person that was an outstanding civil rights advocate, and who viewed racial equality as a number one goal.
— Bernard Parks,
Los Angeles City Council Member
General King is a scholar, a soldier, a civil rights leader. But most importantly, he’s an organizer, a facilitator. And that’s attested to by your presence here today — the large diversity of people in Los Angeles and from abroad... In his last years, after being a great civil rights leader in his own right, he took on the task of spokesman for CORE in California and other parts of the West. To replace him will be difficult.
— Roy Innes,
National Chairman, Congress of Racial Equality
Because he was a person of courage, Celes King was respected by everyone... And as we remember him, we have to say with great respect, if he can pass on that kind of courage to others, we know that this will be the kind of world he truly wanted.
— Yvonne Brathwaite Burke,
Los Angeles County Supervisor
A farewell from friends at Freedom
He never flinched in the face of a tough issue or a hard decision.
He befriended and spoke out courageously for unpopular causes when he knew they were just.
Ever politically astute, he nonetheless always stood for what was right, not necessarily for what was popular.
Yes, we will miss Celes King — as a personal friend, as a friend of freedom, as a great man. But more than miss him, we thank him for doing his part to build a world more humane, more tolerant, more dignified than the one he stepped into.
And doing it with a compassion and grace that lives on in his memory.
— Rev. Janet Weiland
Vice President, Church of Scientology International