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Ludlow Flower Jr., 1918 - 2008

Parks official pushed to build L.A. Zoo

March 06, 2008|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Ludlow Flower Jr., who presided over the Los Angeles Recreation and Park Commission during the expansionist 1960s and pushed for such projects as the Los Angeles Zoo and the children's art center in Barnsdall Park, has died. He was 89.

Flower died Feb. 25 from complications related to old age at his home in Glendale, according to his family.

"Of his civic accomplishments, he was most proud of the zoo -- that was a really big deal," said Cynthia Schield, one of his daughters.

Before the entire zoo was completed in 1966, Flower deflected criticism of a newly opened segment, the children's zoo, that was experiencing overflow crowds. "Our weekend attendance at a 3 1/2 -acre Children's Zoo consistently equals that of the entire 91-acre San Diego Zoo," Flower said in a 1965 letter to The Times. "We are merely attempting to give the citizens of Los Angeles the finest zoo we possibly can."

Working with then-Mayor Sam Yorty and civic groups, Flower and fellow commissioners also greenlighted the Junior Arts Center in 1965. The structure, which provided classroom space for children, was added to the Barnsdall Park arts colony, which had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Appointed to the commission in 1964, Flower became president two years later. He resigned in 1968 amid conflict-of-interest accusations that included allowing the city's William S. Hart mansion to be leased to Actors Studio West. His estranged wife, actress Cay Forrester, was a member of the nonprofit group.

In resigning, Flower said only the "highest of motives" had been behind his actions, and he effectively retired.

From 1961 to 1964, Flower was on the Coliseum Commission that oversees the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Sports Arena and served as the group's president.

Born Nov. 15, 1918, in Denver, he was the grandson of a major Denver developer. His father, Ludlow Flower Sr., lived on an inheritance.

During World War II, Flower served in the U.S. Army Air Forces, leading platoons that retrieved parts from U.S. planes downed in Europe.

In 1948, he moved to California and invested in real estate development, banking, farming -- and Hollywood. Among the early TV shows Flower produced were 15-minute dramas starring Charles Laughton.

In a statement, Flower's longtime business partner Gifford Phillips remembered him as an innovative business leader with a zest for life.

Flower lost his home in the catastrophic Bel-Air fire in 1961 and later moved to Toluca Lake.

His role as an early 1950s developer of San Fernando Valley homes is recognized by a road that parallels San Fernando Mission Boulevard that is named for him, his family says. It is called Ludlow Street.

In addition to his daughter, Cynthia, Flower is survived by his wife of 37 years, Margery; four other children, Ludlow Flower III, Mila Reeder, Amber Tubbs and Ludlow Flower IV; two brothers; a sister; six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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