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Lindsay Praised Fondly at Burial

January 05, 1991|SCOTT HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On a gray drizzly Friday when the skyscrapers he helped create seemed ghostly in the mist, Councilman Gilbert W. Lindsay was buried in a Boyle Heights cemetery after a memorial service in which he was remembered as a skillful politician, a kind father and "a great soul."

In the unlikely phrasing of Mayor Tom Bradley, it was proclaimed that Lindsay had led a "bodacious" life.

The first black on the Los Angeles City Council, Lindsay died Dec. 28 during his 28th year in office. His colorful, outspoken career, beginning as a janitor in the basement of the Department of Water and Power and ending as the self-proclaimed "Emperor of the Great 9th District," was recalled with awe, fondness and humor in a service that attracted more than 700 mourners.

They filled Lindsay's church--Victory Baptist, south of downtown--and spilled out onto the sidewalks. Among them were a Who's Who of Los Angeles political life: congressmen and state legislators, council members and lobbyists, community activists and gadflies.

Politicians and power brokers who are now warring over the future of downtown development took a two-hour break to pay their respects in a ceremony that began and ended with soaring gospel. Scores of mourners followed to Evergreen Cemetery where Lindsay was buried next to his wife, Theresa, beneath a shared headstone.

"We have come to say thank you, Lord," Rev. Frank Higgins told the assembly at Victory Baptist. "He served every race, every creed, every color. And we came to thank you."

Bradley began reverently, but soon inspired smiles recalling Lindsay was able to get away with behavior for which other politicians "would have been run out of office."

The smiles turned to laughter when Bradley suggested that street slang offered the best description for the late councilman.

"They took bold and audacious and made it into one word: bodacious ," the mayor said. "That was Gil Lindsay . . .

"He got all that life had to give--and someone else's share too," Bradley deadpanned.

The mayor even mimicked Lindsay's low, rough growl: "He'd say, 'I looooove big buildings.' . . . He loved big ideas, big people. . . . He loved the enormity of life."

Several others offered tributes. It was not a day to hear the criticism Lindsay often attracted--that he was too cozy with big developers, that he favored downtown and neglected the neighborhoods.

Council President John Ferraro recalled his strong, outspoken character. "Politics is a tough game, and Gil Lindsay was a master player," Ferraro said. "Gil was a very good council member . . . a true leader."

Christina Willoughby, Lindsay's adopted daughter, dwelt on his sweetness and kindness. The 5-foot, 3-inch Lindsay, she said, was "a little giant of a man. My papa."

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown spoke of Lindsay's pioneering role for black politicians. Without Gilbert Lindsay, he suggested, other blacks such as Bradley and councilmen Robert Farrell and Nate Holden may not have rose to office.

True, Brown added, some might say Lindsay wouldn't have gotten to the council if not for Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. Lindsay was Hahn's deputy when he was appointed to the City Council in 1963.

But, Brown pointed out, it was Lindsay, the street wise political activist, who had helped Hahn get elected supervisor. "Kenny Hahn would tell you there would have never been a Kenny Hahn without Gil," Brown said.

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