Samuel Leask, 96; L.A.'s 1st City Administrative Officer


Samuel J. Leask, Los Angeles’ first city administrative officer and a successful businessman who held many public service positions, has died. He was 96.

He died May 8 of natural causes at his Los Angeles home, his family announced Saturday.

Leask was vice president of the J. W. Robinson Co. when Mayor Fletcher Bowron persuaded him to accept a reduced salary and work for the city as acting budget director in March, 1951.

Two months later, he was sworn in as city administrative officer, a position created by passage of a charter amendment on the May 29, 1951, ballot.


Leask remained in the position 10 years, serving under Bowron and Mayor Norris Poulson, but resigning in 1961 at the start of Mayor Sam Yorty’s Administration.

“It is a sore loss to the city. He is a man who never showed favoritism,” said then-Councilman Ransom M. Callicott, urging Leask to reconsider and stay on.

Among Leask’s proudest accomplishments during his decade as Los Angeles’ “business manager” was helping to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers to Chavez Ravine.

Born March 5, 1894, in Santa Cruz, Leask moved to Los Angeles in 1911 to attend the Harvard School, a private prep school, where he graduated in 1914.

He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry during World War I and was Southern California director of the U.S. Office of Price Administration during World War II. During the Depression in the 1930s he served on both the state Unemployment Reserves Commission and the federal Advisory Council of the U.S. Employment Service.

Often describing himself as working in the “rag business,” Leask began as a general partner in Samuel Leask and Sons of Santa Cruz, the business started by his Scottish-born father, Samuel J. Leask Sr. In Los Angeles, he was vice president of the May Department Stores between 1938 and 1942 and of Robinson’s from 1945 to 1951. He served as president ofthe California Retailers Assn. in 1949.

After Leask left his city post at the age of 67, he became administrator of the state’s new Health and Welfare Agency for a year. He then served on the California State Personnel Board from 1963 to 1973 and was board president from 1967 to 1969.

Leask was married for 63 years to the late Marjorie Drullard Leask, who died in 1982. A son, Samuel J. Leask III, also preceded him in death. Survivors include two daughters, Marjorie Young and Janet Schweitzer, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, May 24, at the Church of the Hills atForest Lawn Hollywood Hills. The family has requested that any memorial contributions be made to the Braille Institute of Los Angeles.