For 27 years he has been the unquestioned “Emperor of the 9th District.” But now Councilman Gilbert Lindsay is ancient and ailing, and the debate down on Central Avenue is whether the emperor’s reign should come to an end.
Down at the Theresa Lindsay Senior Citizens Center, named for the 90-year-old councilman’s late wife and located next door to a pawnshop, many of the emperor’s subjects say yes, many say no and many say maybe.
On a day that Lindsay, disabled by a stroke, was transferred from a hospital in Inglewood to one in Los Angeles--a move that averted a council bid to appoint a successor--the political drama and its romantic subplot provided a diversion from a routine of lunch, checkers, dominoes and cards.
Many people are still loyal to the man they had elected and reelected since the early 1960s, a few extolling his greatness. But some complained that Lindsay has always cared more about building skyscrapers downtown than helping the poorer people in the neighborhoods to the south. Enough is enough, they said.
Why, just look at what that 39-year-old woman did to that old man, a few suggested. What’s between two people is their business, but the way Lindsay’s ex-girlfriend, Juanda Chauncie, took over his property shows he’s lost it, they said.
“What’s a 39-year-old woman going to do with a 90-year-old man but use him?” declared 72-year-old Edna Green over a lunch of Salisbury steak, squash, bread and cake. “He’s too old,” Green added, apparently referring to Lindsay’s suitability for office. “He was too old 10 years ago. . . . There’s too many young men out of work. Let a young man have that job--a young man with a family.”
Frances Gales, 69, said of Lindsay, “He’s not really himself. . . . But I love him. He’s been a great councilman.”
The sentiment that Lindsay should bow out was shared by many.
“He’s not capable,” Edward Albie Robinson said with a shrug. The 72-year-old political activist has criticized Lindsay for years. “You got a disabled person in an office that’s very important to a district that goes begging for service.
“Prior to his illness, at least we could call his office to get the alleys cleaned and whatnot. Now you don’t get that.
“Now they moved him into the city,” Robinson continued. “Well, who’s calling those shots? They’re the ones should be doing something to provide the leadership we need for this community.”
Poised over a checkerboard, 68-year-old Frank Greenwood said a replacement should be appointed to serve until a special election can be called. At first Greenwood praised Lindsay, saying he “tried nobly” to help seniors.
As for the 9th District as a whole, for Greenwood, Lindsay’s performance left something to be desired: “He put more emphasis on Little Tokyo and high-rises than on the people in this community.”
Sarah Wright, 72, expressed a mixture of feelings. Lindsay, she said, always seemed to care more about people with money than people without. On the other hand, the move to replace him is “rather cold.”
“He is sick, but when (county Supervisor) Kenny Hahn was sick"--like Lindsay, Hahn suffered a stroke--"they did not remove him. They gave him an opportunity to get himself together. I think Gil Lindsay should get the same respect.”
“He’s a fighter,” 68-year-old Henry Blackmore said. “I believe in the Supreme Being. . . . I’ve seen some get knocked down, but they get back up.”
But of all the emperor’s subjects, none expressed so much loyalty as 85-year-old John Rettig.
“I’ve been knowing him 50 years,” Rettig said proudly. “He’s a great man.” They both attended Good Shepherd Baptist Church.
A disabled Lindsay, he suggested, is better than no Lindsay at all.
“No, I don’t think he’s able,” Rettig said. “But I’d still vote for him any time it came up.”