For 36 years, John W. Mack led the Los Angeles Urban League with passion, tenacity and a commitment to advance the civil rights of people of color, and more specifically, African Americans. All of us who were fortunate enough to know, work or be directly affected by Mr. Mack’s compassion and dedication to our community will always cherish and remember him as an inspiring mentor and leader. He leaves behind a legacy that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of the Los Angeles Urban League. Please join us as we celebrate his life and commemorate his passing.

The Passing of a Legend

It is with deep regret that we announce the death of our beloved John W. Mack, long time Urban Leaguer and civil rights leader, on Thursday, June 21, 2018.

John began his career with the Urban League in Flint, Michigan in 1964 and was appointed executive director in 1965. Prior to heading the Los Angeles Urban League, he served on the Urban League’s National staff for six months during the Whitney Young era in Washington, D.C. He served as president of the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) from August of 1969 until his retirement in 2004. During his tenure, the LAUL became one of the most successful non-profit community organizations in Los Angeles, with an annual budget of $25 million. At the time of his transitioning, he was serving as Vice Chair of the National Urban League, and Chair of the Affiliate Services Committee.

When John retired, the organization was serving over 100,000 individuals each year, and operated a number of innovative, result-oriented job training, job placement, education, academic tutorial, youth achievement and business development programs serving African-Americans and other people of color utilizing state of the art computer technology preparing League constituents for the 21st Century. In 1997, under his leadership, United Way presented its Agency of the Year Award to the Los Angeles Urban League. John was the recipient of the first National Urban League Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award for Leadership in Race Relations and he also received the National Urban League’s “Legend of the Century” Award in 2000.

As a leader in the 1960 student Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, he was a cofounder and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights. John earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Sociology from North Carolina A&T State University, and his Master’s in Social Work Degree from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), where Whitney M. Young, Jr. served as the Dean of Social Work. In 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Management Degree from the Claremont Graduate University School of Education.

In Los Angeles, and indeed Southern California, the name John W. Mack was synonymous with civil rights and the Urban League. He was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners by Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa in August of 2005, where he served for two consecutive years before being elected to the Vice President position in 2007. He was re-elected to the Vice President position in 2008.

John was a highly respected advocate for equal opportunities in education, law enforcement, and economic empowerment for African-Americans and other minorities–and a bridge builder across all racial, cultural, economic, gender and religious lines. He was afforded the unique opportunity to serve as a Teaching Fellow in Residence at the prestigious Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics from September through December, 1998. He led a study group of Harvard University undergraduate students entitled “The Future of Urban America: Finding Solutions Through Strategic Partnership and Policy Advocacy.”

In 2005, the Los Angeles Board of Education named in his honor the “John W. Mack Elementary School” in recognition of his retirement and leadership in advancing a level playing field and a quality education for African Americans and other youth of color.

John’s career was truly exemplified by organizations and board memberships with which he was affiliated, receiving numerous honors and awards.

He is survived by his children: Anthony, Deborah, and Andria; and his grandchildren: Anthony, Gabriel, and Gianna.


  1. Brian Williams

    Mr. Mack’s impact on the lives of Angelenos – from the 1960s until yesterday – was immeasurable. He’ll be missed not only for his tireless civic and humanitarian work, but for his genuine affection for and belief in the people he served so faithfully.

    Blessings and thanks to his children and extended family for sharing him with us all these years.

  2. Mike Feuer, City Attorney

    Los Angeles lost one of its great heroes when John Mack passed away. John was a leader who exuded strength and a listener who brought us together and sought to heal. He was my friend. He was inspiring. John Mack was the consummate public servant, commanding wide respect for his clear-eyed and focused leadership, his toughness and his candor, his compassion and his commitment to assuring no one in Los Angeles gets left behind. John Mack was a civic role model, whose legacy is a more inclusive, resilient, respectful, productive city. He will be deeply missed.

  3. Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock

    There was no greater voice for inclusion, equity and shared power than John W. Mack. He was powerful for reasons not related to his title. He mentored and breathed wisdom into so many of us. We stand on his shoulders and today his legacy will live on because he gave so much of himself to us. Thank you, Mack. We love you and will miss you!


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Los Angeles Urban League serves, educates and empowers African Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance and civil rights by providing targeted social programs and advocating for issues that benefit our communities.

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