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Downtown intersection to honor early civil rights activist Willis Tyler


Attorney once represented Willia and Charles Bruce

The Los Angeles City Council has approved the designation of 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.

Tyler was born in July 1880 in Bloomington, Ill. and passed away in June 1949, here in the city, according to the motion. He lost both his parents as a child and was reared 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.