Homer Floyd Broome Jr., the first black man to rise to the rank of commander in the Los Angeles Police Department, died Monday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, friends said. He was 76.
Broome rose through the ranks of the LAPD during the height of the civil rights movement.
"There are many people today who don't realize they're in positions that he made possible," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, a former chief of the LAPD who was the second black person to hold that post. "If Homer Broome hadn't broken down the doors, Bernard Parks would never have been chief."
A straight-backed, broad-shouldered man who puffed on a signature pipe, Broome was known as a bright and soft-spoken gentleman.
"He led by example," Parks said. "He did not promote himself, didn't look for the press or acknowledgment, but on his own helped more people than realized it."
In a statement, Councilman Richard Alarcon said: "He was a vanguard for minorities in the Los Angeles Police Department, and I believe his success is largely responsible for opening doors to minorities in law enforcement agencies throughout the country."
Broome, who joined the LAPD in 1954, was named the department's first black captain in 1969 and served in the Southwest Police Station, which bears his name today. In 1975, he earned the rank of commander, again setting a high-water mark for blacks on the force. Later, he came in fourth in testing to become chief, narrowly missing a chance at the department's highest post, Parks said.
After retiring from the LAPD, Broome was appointed by President Carter to be a senior administrator in the Department of Justice, where he was the highest ranking black non-attorney.
For years, Broome enjoyed the backing of his political mentor, Mayor Tom Bradley, who had served with Broome in the LAPD in the 1950s but left in 1961 after being told that a black man would never rise to the rank of captain.
Bradley appointed Broome vice president of the Los Angeles Public Works Commission, where he sought to open the city contracting process to more minorities.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, at the time a young staffer to Bradley, recalled Broome as a quiet man with a powerful presence not unlike Bradley's own.
"When Homer Broome spoke, people listened," Greuel said. "He was one of the icons during my time in the Bradley administration."
At Bradley's urging, Broome ran for City Council in the 10th District in 1987 but was defeated by Nate Holden, a former state senator.
"When you have people as decent as he was, it was impossible to attack," Holden told The Times on Monday about the heated contest. "He rose through the ranks at a time when rising through the ranks was no easy accomplishment."
After losing the race, Broome ran a consulting firm and led several economic development initiatives in Los Angeles. He was founding president of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce and a board member of several police and community organizations.
A California native, Broome was born June 22, 1931. He earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Cal State Los Angeles and a master's degree from Pepperdine.
Broome is survived by his wife, Marian; son David, daughter Margaret; and four grandchildren.
Services are still being planned.