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John B. Kingsley; Hollywood Leader

November 22, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John B. Kingsley, the former president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who was instrumental in developing the Santa Claus Lane Parade and the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame, has died. He was 91.

Kingsley, who also served on the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and the Los Angeles Police Commission, died Thursday in Newport Beach, where he had lived since the mid-1950s.

In 1969, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce granted Kingsley its prestigious Centurion Award, noting: "For nearly half a century, he has stood as a hundred strong in his leadership, his determination and his valiant efforts to better the community. With courage of his convictions, he has never wavered in the face of any man or obstacle while in the service of his fellow man."

As president of the organization from 1940 to 1952, Kingsley served as general chairman of the annual holiday parade featuring film and later television stars and made getting a star placed on Hollywood Boulevard a prestigious goal for individuals in the entertainment industry.

Kingsley, who operated a card store on Hollywood Boulevard for 46 years, also helped block the destruction of the old "Hollywoodland" sign. He negotiated an arrangement with the Los Angeles Parks Department to enable the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to reconstruct the shortened "Hollywood" sign that has become an internationally known icon.

He also originated the Hollywood Community Development Plan, which provided for public parking, among other improvements. In 1942 he was named honorary mayor of Hollywood.

Always agitating for reform, Kingsley served on the Los Angeles Police Commission from 1939 until he became president of the Hollywood group, and in that single year produced a list of 150 recommendations to improve the Police Department. Many were enacted into law.

Kingsley was named to the 1954 Los Angeles County Grand Jury, one of the most controversial grand juries in county history. He created and chaired an upstart committee to investigate governmental honesty and efficiency, examining charges of corruption and graft in connection to various county employees.

The highly unusual grand jury was dismissed by the Los Angeles Superior Court presiding judge on Nov. 23, 1954, after serving less than half its one-year term, "on grounds it was impotent and ineffective because of internal friction." James B. West and other grand jurors said it was Kingsley, in his zeal to seek out financial waste, who caused the friction and made the group unable to function.

At one point in the continuing debates, Kingsley had an attorney arrested on charges of disturbing the peace for calling him an allegedly obscene word. The word was "pipsqueak."

After moving to Newport Beach, Kingsley became a housing developer with projects throughout California and several other states.

He is survived by his wife, Sonya, four children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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