Edward Vincent was a year away from making history in 1983 as Inglewood's first black mayor when he heard a woman screaming on a city street that her purse had been snatched and decided "to practice what I've been preaching."
At the time, he was a city councilman who emphasized anti-crime initiatives. He also was a former star running back at the University of Iowa who had briefly played for the Los Angeles Rams in the late 1950s. And he was about to become a hands-on crime stopper.
"I've been telling people they have to get involved if we're going to bring crime under control, so I figured I'd better set an example," Vincent told The Times in 1982 as he related chasing down and subduing the suspect.
Vincent, 78, who spent 12 years as mayor before serving a dozen years in the Legislature, died Friday, said Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who ran Vincent's first mayoral campaign and succeeded him in the state Senate.
No other details about Vincent's death were released. He had triple-bypass heart surgery in 2002.
In the state Assembly, Vincent represented the 51st District, centered in Inglewood, from 1996 to 2000 and then moved to the state Senate, where he represented the 25th District, which stretched from Inglewood and Los Angeles to Compton, Long Beach and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Term limits forced him to retire from the Senate in 2008. His last year as a senator was marked by long absences because of knee replacement surgery, several ailments and his wife's illness, The Times reported in 2007.
He had an openly personal connection to horse racing that carried over to his political life. Vincent championed the industry as chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee and the Select Committee on the Horseracing Industry.
In the 1980s, Vincent had an extra window put in his house as it was being built across from Hollywood Park in Inglewood specifically so he could see the park from the second floor of his home in the gated community, Wright said. Vincent bought interests in horses that ran at the park, bet on them and fed them carrots when their racing days were over, according to a 1998 Times article.
Popular among lawmakers, Vincent was "a solid Democrat" whose "word is his bond," John Burton, a former state senator who chairs the state Democratic Party, told The Times in 2007.
"He was just genuinely a fun-loving guy, a great guy who loved horse racing," Wright told The Times. "One of the great things he used to say was 'I was born at night, but it wasn't last.' "
Born June 23, 1934, in Steubenville, Ohio, Vincent had a "competitiveness about him that was way beyond average," his high school coach, Abe Ryan, told The Times in 1990.
"He was as strong an athlete as I've ever coached," Ryan said.
At Iowa, Vincent lettered in football over three seasons between 1953 and 1955. During the 1954 Iowa-Purdue game, he made a 96-yard run from scrimmage and set a school record that still stands.
"That Eddie had speed," his college coach, Forrest Evashevski, said in the 1990 article.
The Rams took Vincent in the sixth round of the 1956 NFL draft, and he played in several games before a knee injury ended his football career.
After serving in the Army in the late 1950s, Vincent earned a bachelor's degree in corrections and social welfare from Cal State L.A. and embarked on a 35-year career with the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
He moved to Inglewood in the 1960s and quickly jumped into civic affairs.
In the mid-1970s, he was appointed to the local school board and served as its president before being elected to the Inglewood City Council in 1979. Four years later, he was mayor.
Burly and gregarious, Vincent generally received credit for attracting development to Inglewood, which had lost much of its commercial appeal after being plagued by white flight in the 1960s and '70s and high crime rates.
As mayor, he was regarded as the city's biggest booster and drove a Cadillac with a license plate that read INGLEW1.
"I'm tired of people saying that they're from inglewood," Vincent told The Times in 1990 as he whispered the name of the city, "when they should stick their chests out and say INGLEWOOD."
He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; two daughters; and three grandchildren.
Services at 11 a.m. Friday at Inglewood Park Cemetery, 720 E. Florence Ave., will be immediately followed by a celebration at Hollywood Park.