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Thomas L. Berkley, 86; Owner, Publisher of 2 Weeklies in Bay Area

December 31, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas Lucius Berkley, 86, a newspaper owner and publisher in the Bay Area who broke racial barriers in business, died Thursday at his home in Oakland. His family said he had been suffering from diabetes.

Born in southern Illinois, Berkley grew up in the Imperial Valley, where his family moved when he was young. He attended Fullerton Junior College before transferring to UCLA, from which he graduated in 1938. He worked his way through Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley and then Hastings School of Law.

Berkley served in the Army during World War II and attained the rank of second lieutenant. He resumed his law practice after his discharge and also became part owner and publisher of the Oakland Post and El Mundo, weeklies now in their 38th year. He was also a co-founder of the West Coast Black Publishers Assn.

As a staunch supporter of civil rights and housing opportunities, Berkley developed Berkley Square in 1955, a 250-house racially integrated housing tract in Las Vegas. In 1967, he was appointed to the Oakland Board of Education.

Berkley was also the first black person to serve as a Port of Oakland commissioner. He served two terms in the 1970s and was its president--playing a key role in converting the port to a container operation that moved more cargo with cranes. He resigned in 1981.

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