Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Lindsay collapsed in the City Hall garage early Friday just hours before he was to greet Nelson Mandela, an aide said. The 89-year-old councilman was taken to a hospital, where his condition was later reported as stable.
Lindsay’s collapse was described by an aide as a fainting spell, which was blamed on a combination of excitement over the day’s festivities, his skipping of breakfast and the recent spate of hot weather.
Mandela was told of Lindsay’s collapse by Mayor Tom Bradley. The South African anti-apartheid leader was said to have expressed a desire to visit the councilman, but did not, apparently because of his schedule.
Lindsay was being treated in the critical care unit at White Memorial Medical Center, hospital officials said.
“Oh, what a touching story,” the mayor quoted Mandela as saying.
Lindsay was rushed to the hospital after he “basically fainted” shortly after 9 a.m., according to his aide, Bob Gay.
Lindsay, whose health has been failing since he suffered a stroke in 1988, was getting out of his car with his driver when he had a dizzy spell and collapsed, officials said.
Paramedics already standing by for the Mandela event rushed to the councilman’s side, gave him oxygen and transported him to the medical center, where an hour later he was “barking orders, playing with nurses” and trying to figure a way to get back to City Hall to shake Mandela’s hand, Gay said.
The city’s senior councilman and self-described “Emperor of the 9th District,” Lindsay was to have greeted Mandela at the end of the red carpet unfurled on the City Hall steps.
Lindsay, who rarely makes it to a council meeting before 11 a.m., was hurrying to a special 8:30 a.m. session where an anti-apartheid ordinance was rushed into law in time for Mandela’s arrival. Lindsay had already missed the meeting when he collapsed.
“He didn’t have breakfast. He was excited about making it to the City Council meeting,” Gay said. “He didn’t have a stroke. He never lost consciousness.”
But the attack was serious enough to warrant further tests, doctors decided, dashing the councilman’s chance to meet the civil rights leader with whom he is said to feel a special affinity.
Lindsay rose from a childhood in segregated Mississippi to become the city’s first black councilman 27 years ago--almost precisely the same time Mandela was imprisoned.
“Councilman Lindsay wanted to say hello,” Gay said. “He is going to miss that opportunity--or Mr. Mandela is going to miss that opportunity--depending on how you look at it. Mr. Mandela probably hasn’t met too many 89-year-old elected officials.”