By Chico C. Norwood –
Lillian Mobley, a teacher, leader, activist, icon and “Queen of the South Central Community” died July 18 at Centinela Medical Center from natural causes. Mobley was admitted to the hospital about three weeks ago. She was 81. Lillian Harkless Mobley is known throughout south Los Angeles for her efforts to spearhead programs, services and activities for African Americans and the poor.
Following the 1965 Watts Riots, Mobley joined with Mary Henry, Caffie Green, Johnnie Taylor and Nola Carter to spearhead the fight to bring a hospital to the residents of South Central.
The result was Martin Luther King Hospital, which opened in 1977. The group was also instrumental in the opening of the Charles Drew Medical School, which opened doors for African Americans and other minorities to train in the health care field.
Mobley was also a member of the Founders, a committee that included Odessa Cox and others who labored tirelessly to get permanent buildings constructed at Southwest College.
“She was a leader that advocated everyday of her life. She loved her community, she lived in her community, she celebrated her community and held people accountable to her community,” said Charisse Bremond-Weaver, executive director of the Brotherhood Crusade, who called Mobley a mentor and a hero.
“She was a special treasure. She was the Queen of South Central Community. When you sacrifice your entire life of giving back for your people, it’s an amazing gift. She didn’t want anything from the community, she gave to the community.”
Born in Macon, GA, on March 29, 1930, to Charlie and Corene Basley Harkless, Lillian Harkless graduated from Macon’s Hudson High in 1948. That same year she married James Otis Mobley. The couple moved to California in 1951. Her activism started when her children began school.
“It started with the PTA, the girl scouts, the camp fire girls. All of the stuff my kids were involved in growing up,” she said in a 2009 L.A. Watts Times interview.
In 1967 she became involved in the Neighborhood Adult Participation Project, an antipoverty program designed to provide training and employment opportunities for adults in poor neighborhoods. As a member of the project, she worked as a community worker, health and education specialist and center director.
In 1980, Mobley was elected a delegate to the National Democratic Convention and a year later was a delegate to the State Conference on Aging. She started the South Central Multipurpose Center in 1982 where she and staff provided a variety of services to the community.
“She had a great impact on the lives of the community and many individuals,” said her son Kenneth.
According to Brenda Marsh- Mitchell, when rioting erupted in South Los Angeles in 1992, the Red Cross would only venture as far as Manual Arts High School. Mobley, Marsh-Mitchell said, immediately responded to the crisis.
Mobley and the Mothers In Action set up tents and provided three meals a day, housing and health services to the community.
"Mrs. Mobley would stay out there 12 to 14 hours a day,” said Marsh-Mitchell, who along with Mobley founded Mothers In Action. “She was selfless. She always looked at the community as a whole, who would benefit from it.”
Despite being on dialysis since 2005 and unable to drive, Mobley could be seen walking through the doors of the Lillian Mobley South Central Multipurpose Center everyday at 10 a.m. where she would hold court a variety of weekly education and health commission meetings.
“Up until the time she went into the hospital she was still fighting for us,” said Bremond- Weaver.
Funeral services will be held July 29, 11 a.m., at Ward AME Church, 1177 25th St., Los Angeles.
Mobley is survived by her husband, James; three sons, Kenneth, Phillip, Charles; 10 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, three great-great grandchildren and host of other relatives.
Her daughter, Corene Mobley Bowie, preceded her in death.
The family has requested that all condolences be sent to 1111 W. 51st St., Los Angeles, CA 90037.
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