Gus Hawkins was elected to the California legislature in 1934 [editor's note: !] and almost three decades later he became the first African American from California to be elected to Congress. He was one of those old-time Democrats who held office for fifty-plus years, a champion of civil rights and labor and a hero to many South Los Angeles blacks. Born in Shreveport, La., his family came to Los Angeles just after World War I. He graduated from Jefferson High and UCLA, and won his seat in the state Assembly during the Depression by defeating a black Republican incumbent. He went to Congress in 1962 after winning a district that was especially carved out for him. When he died Saturday in Bethesda, Maryland, Hawkins was the oldest living former member of the House.
"Gus Hawkins was a champion for civil rights and the rights of hard-working men and women," [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi said in a statement. "A leader on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he was instrumental in ensuring that this groundbreaking legislation afforded equal employment to all workers."