As clouds formed over First AME Church in the West Adams neighborhood on Saturday, nearly 2,000 mourners gathered to remember Terry Carter, the man police say was killed when a pickup driven by rap music mogul Marion "Suge" Knight ran over him and another man on Jan. 29.
Carter, 55, was a businessman who built classic lowriders and started a record label with rapper Ice Cube. His funeral was a loud, grand ceremony that Duane Moody, one of the organizers, called Carter's "scholarship to the University of Heaven."
Mourners began to congregate about an hour before the service, leaning into handshakes and exchanging cheek-bump kisses around crisp cocked hats. Roaring Harley Davidson motorcycles set off a car alarm down the street, and a bright blue Chevrolet Bel Air cruised in a circle, blasting gospel music, in a tribute to Carter's lifelong love of cars.
About noon, Carter's family pulled up in a stretch Hummer and filed into the church.
Tamela Mann's "Take Me to the King" played as the family walked down the aisle, led by Carter's mother, who used a walker and was aided by two family members. Mourners balled their hands into fists and swiped at their eyes with tissues as the music swelled. Several people mouthed the lyrics:
"Truth is it's time
to stop playing these games
We need a word
for the people's pain."
Friends and family remembered Carter as a man with an ever-present smile and a house that was always full of family and friends who needed a place to stay.
A slide show depicted Carter's life in a progression of photos — young and muscular in a black T-shirt and afro, one fist raised; in a white tuxedo and aviators with his wife, Lilliana, at their wedding; laughing and playing with his children.
Carter is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren, along with dozens of extended and adopted family members.
Nekaya Carter, his daughter, called the service, "Day 10 of what feels like someone else's life." On Friday, she viewed her father's body and held his hand, but his death still didn't feel real, she wrote in a note that a family member read during the service.
She remembers a deeply affectionate father who, no matter how busy, would call at dawn so he could be the first to say, "Happy birthday, Kay Kay."
His generosity turned strangers into friends and friends into family members, said Tanya Meyers, who identified herself as Carter's cousin.
"He came from a place where there were no silver spoons, but he was always helping people anyway," she said.
The family took a moment during the afternoon to announce the creation of a scholarship for foster children, because Carter helped raise more than 20 foster children over his lifetime.
Kenneth "Lizard" Chelsea grew up with Carter in Compton and considered him his best friend. When asked if he had a favorite story to tell about Carter, he smiled and shook his head.
"He was just a really happy person," Chelsea said. "He was never not smiling. He worried about nothing."
Tables were set with markers, candles and poster paper outside the church chambers so mourners could write their remembrances.
Some scribbled good memories: "I got my first car from you — Peacemaker."
But other messages were more like promises: "I'll never forget when SK hurt you" read one, referring to Knight.
And several wrote the same message: "Justice 4 Terry Carter."