LA City Council Approves Street Dedication in Honor of Willis Tyler

Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: S. Greg Panosian / E+ / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council Friday approved to designate a downtown street intersection in honor of early civil rights activist and attorney Willis Tyler for his service and advancement of racial justice.

The council approved the motion in a 10-0 vote with council members Kevin de Leon, Tim McOsker, Curren Price and Nithya Raman and Monica Rodriguez absent during the vote. The motion was first introduced by de Leon in August.

Tyler was born in July 1880 in Bloomington, Illinois and passed away in June 1949, here in the city, according to the motion. He lost both his parents as a child and raised was by his aunt, who had been a leader in the Bloomington station of the Underground Railroad.

At the age of 16, Tyler enrolled in Indiana University where he studied for two years. He enlisted in the Indiana Colored Volunteer Infantry for Cuba's independence in the Spanish American War in 1898.

Tyler went to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1907, where he received the highest honors ever given to a Black student. He moved to L.A., became active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked closely with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He litigated landmark civil rights cases, most notably his success in the Title Guaranty v. Garrott case in 1919.

H.L. Garrott, an African American police officer, purchased a home for his family in South Los Angeles. A deed recorded against the property prohibited the property's being sold to any person of "African, Chinese, or Japanese descent."

When the title company discovered that Garrott owned the property, it sued to force him to relinquish title to his property without compensation.

Tyler presented Garrott and argued that the racially restrictive covenant violated the due process clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution, and that the restrictive covenant must be ruled to invalid because it conflicted with the individual right of a seller to transfer one's property as he or she sees fit, according to the motion.

Tyler also represented Willa and Charles Bruce, the founders of Bruce's Beach, in their effort to stop the city of Manhattan Beach's racially motivated eminent domain of the Bruce's Beach property.

Councilman de Leon's motion instructed the downtown intersection of Spring and Second Street to be named "Willis O. Tyler Square" in the attorney's honor, where his law office was located at 224 S. Spring Street.

The Department of Transportation will prepare the signs and later place them.

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