Douglas Dollarhide, whose election as Compton’s first black mayor in 1969 symbolized the demographic transformation of what was once a predominantly white area, has died. He was 85.
The Oklahoma native and member of numerous community groups was on life support for three years before family chose take him off, said his nephew, Vernon T. Wilson.
He was an unassuming perfectionist who loved to read, quote Shakespeare and listen to Bach and Beethoven.
“All he’d ever talk about were things that needed to be done,” Wilson said, “not about his accomplishments.”
Dollarhide became the first elected black councilman of Compton by 75 votes in 1963. He was elected mayor in 1969.
Dollarhide oversaw the construction of a City Hall and a community center that was later named the Dollarhide Neighborhood Center. Combating drugs, alcohol abuse and crime was a top priority.
Dollarhide was considered a pioneering figure at a time when other cities in southeast Los Angeles County were becoming increasingly black and Latino.
He took office when Compton’s population hovered at 76,000 and was about 65% black. City leadership was starting to turn, with several black leaders winning prominent roles on the council and school boards. Businesses, city departments and community clubs were still dominated by whites.
“The white establishment didn’t think much about it,” said Maxcy Filer, 78, about Dollarhide’s mayoral win. “But black people thought it was good . . . and when he was elected, he kept his promise.”
The former mail carrier ran for a second term but lost to Doris A. Davis, Compton’s first black female mayor.
Dollarhide later worked as a real estate agent and mortgage broker, before retiring to Northridge.
Dollarhide’s wife, Eliza Dollarhide, died in 2007. He is survived by his adopted daughter, Patricia Kiriko.