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Diane Watson looks back on a career as a legislator and inspiration

January 1, 2011 | 12:40 pm

Diane Watson

A remarkable L.A. political career comes to an end Wednesday, when, at the age of 77, Diane Watson attends the inauguration of her favored successor to the multiethnic 33rd Congressional District, former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.

Watson won her first election as black political power in Los Angeles was on the ascent, and successive generations have called her a mentor, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Bass and newly seated Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), whose first job was in Watson's state Senate office.

"She was a tremendous inspiration and role model for those of us who were thinking of going into government," said Kerman Maddox, a veteran public affairs consultant and aide to Tom Bradley, who won election as Los Angeles' mayor the year Watson made her first run for office.

But she maintained success by building support among other ethnic groups, winning congressional elections by huge margins even as the number of Los Angeles County political posts held by African Americans dropped.

"She's highly regarded by the black community, the Latino community, the white community, the Asian community," said the Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray, the former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Read the full story here.

--Jean Merl

Photo: Rep. Diane Watson with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as she announces her retirement in February. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times