Dr. Henry Lucas dies at 77; Republican activist was one of first African Americans on the RNC

Dr. Henry Lucas, a Republican activist who was one of the first African Americans to serve on the Republican National Committee, died Tuesday in San Francisco after suffering a stroke. He was 77.

Lucas, a Bay Area dentist for five decades, met Ronald Reagan in the mid-1960s when the former actor first ran for California governor. He traveled and campaigned with Reagan and later used his clout to mobilize other black conservatives for political action.

In 1980 he and conservative commentator Thomas Sowell organized the Black Alternatives Conference with support from the incoming Reagan White House. Reagan sent his top aide, Ed Meese, to the meeting in San Francisco, which drew black professionals and business people.

Lucas believed it was important to raise the national profile of conservative African Americans and provide an alternative to the "old-line black leadership" dominated by liberals.

"Liberal white and civil rights leaders have made a living out of civil rights," Lucas told The Times in 1980. "We think that's been self-defeating. It was necessary at one time, but now we have to move on to another phase of our development."

In 1981, President Reagan appointed Lucas to the President's Commission on Hostage Compensation, which recommended payments of $12.50 a day for each of the 444 days that 51 Americans were held hostage in Iran. Lucas also served on the President's Private Sector Initiative Task Force and the Department of Transportation Committee.

Lucas was born Feb. 27, 1932, in Rahway, N.J. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1957 from Howard University and a degree in dentistry in 1960 from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. He later studied orthodontics at the San Francisco campus of University of the Pacific.

Shortly after finishing school, Lucas helped found PACT (Plan of Action for Challenging Times), a nonprofit group that since 1963 has helped 40,000 African American youths prepare for and enroll in college.

He also was a longtime member of the boards of Meharry and of Charles Drew University in Los Angeles and a past president of the Dental Board of California, the state licensing agency.

Lucas is survived by two daughters, Karen Lucas Brown and Dr. Kim Lucas Benton; a son, Kyle; his mother, Margaret Stockley; a sister, Vivian Hurling; a brother, Marvin; and five grandchildren.

The family requests that memorial donations be sent to the scholarship fund of PACT Inc., 635 Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA 94117.