Vivian Myerson dies at 100; peace activist won early victory against LAPD spying

Vivian Myerson, a longtime peace activist and Los Angeles human relations commissioner who won an early legal victory against a controversial Los Angeles Police Department unit that spied on leftists, died Friday at her Hollywood home. She was 100.

The cause was heart failure, said her son Michael.

Myerson and her husband, Seymour, contended that they were subjected to “fascist, terrorist” harassment by the department’s Public Disorder Intelligence Division from 1972 to 1976 because of their political activities.

The Myersons accused the spying unit of tailing them and slashing their car’s tires. The Myersons also said that undercover intelligence officers threw a brick and later a softball-sized rock through their living room window that hit Vivian in the head.


The action that precipitated the lawsuit was a report by one of the officers that Seymour, then in his 70s, was brandishing a gun outside the couple’s Echo Park house. Police surrounded the home and pointed guns at Seymour, who was unarmed. A subsequent search failed to turn up a weapon and Seymour was never charged with any crime.

In 1977, he sued the department and won $27,500 in an out-of-court settlement in 1982.

The settlement marked the first time that the LAPD agreed to pay damages in a lawsuit alleging politically motivated spying. Faced with several other lawsuits, the surveillance unit was disbanded in 1983.

Born in Cleveland on Jan. 22, 1911, Myerson attended the University of Michigan, where she met her future husband. They married in 1935 and later moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as an interior decorator and he was an architect for the federal War Production Board.

After World War II, they moved to Los Angeles, where Vivian worked as a stenographer for Southern Pacific Railroad and Seymour was a Hollywood set designer until he was blacklisted for union activity. Both were committed leftists: He was active in the labor and civil rights movements, while she was an officer of the Los Angeles Peace Crusade and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Myerson organized league chapters in Southern California and headed its Los Angeles chapter for many years. In 1973, she represented the league during a tour of the Soviet Union, where her parents had been born.

In 1978, Mayor Tom Bradley appointed Myerson to the city’s Human Relations Commission, on which she served for 22 years.

After winning their lawsuit against the Police Department, the Myersons donated their award to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, their son said.

Seymour Myerson died in 1987. In addition to Michael, of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., Vivian Myerson is survived by two other sons, Alan, of Culver City, and Mark, of Santa Fe, N.M.; and six grandchildren.