Lois Hill Hale dies at 78

Lois Hill Hale "was a moving force in our community," said her longtime boss, former Rep. Diane Watson. (Los Angeles Times)

Lois Hill Hale, a longtime congressional aide whose Rolodex of influential contacts and outspoken presence on the school board in Inglewood helped make her a pillar of the local civil rights movement, has died. She was 78.

Hill Hale, who also worked in public relations and published a Los Angeles community newspaper called the Scoop for more than three decades, was found dead in her Inglewood home Aug. 8, apparently of a heart attack, said her nephew Pete Thomas.

"She was a moving force in our community," said Hill Hale's longtime boss, former Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). "She knew all of the ministers that really drove equality, drove the integration of our schools, drove fairness."

Before and after her eight-year stint on the Inglewood Unified School District board, which began in 1987, Hill Hale worked for Watson. Although Hill Hale often fulfilled the duties of a press secretary, Watson said above all else she relied on her for on-the-ground perspective.

"Regardless of who was chief in my staff, it was Lois that was on the streets," said Watson, who was a member of the state Senate before serving in Washington.

Born Sept. 17, 1934, in Michigan, where her father was a pastor, Hill Hale eventually moved west, got a degree from Cal State L.A. and taught at Russell and Wadsworth Avenue elementary schools.

After a parent accused the school board of cronyism at a meeting in 1992, The Times reported, Hill Hale quickly responded by saying her priorities hadn't changed since her teaching years.

"My decisions are never political," she said. "I am an educator."

During her time on the board, Hill Hale ran unsuccessful campaigns to represent Inglewood in the state Senate and Assembly.

Over the years, her work with the Scoop — an urban lifestyle publication she started in 1967 — paved the way for introductions to people such as Tina Turner, the Jackson 5 and Diana Ross, her nephew said. Through her political ties, she met the Rev. Jesse Jackson and helped run a publication put out by one of the civil rights leader's nonprofits.

She also started a public relations company that got contracts to introduce curbside recycling programs to black neighborhoods and help families who lived near the section of the 10 Freeway that collapsed during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

"Anything and everything that went down that wasn't right, Lois Hill Hale was there," said Basil Kimbrew, who ran her first school board campaign. "She was Miss Civil Rights."

A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd.

Preceded in death by her husband and son, Hill Hale is survived by her sisters June Hill Roberson and Naomi Hill.

marisa.gerber@latimes.com