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Santa Monica Black Legal Pioneer Dies

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Lookout Staff

August 26, 2016 -- Marcus O. Tucker, Jr., a Santa Monica native who became the first African American lawyer in the City Attorney’s Office before launching a decades-long career as a highly respected jurist, has died.

Tucker, who was 80, died on August 8 of heart complications.

Tucker served as Santa Monica's first black deputy city attorney from 1963 to 1965 and was part of the office's criminal division. He moved on to become an assistant U.S. attorney in the Los Angeles Criminal Division from 1965 to 1967.

In 1976, he became the first black judge appointed to the Long Beach Municipal Court. The following year, his colleagues elected him as the court’s presiding judge. Two opponents challenged him for his seat in 1978 in what was reportedly a nasty campaign, but Tucker won and was never challenged again. 

He was elected to his post as presiding judge three more times, and also served as a superior court commissioner.

Tucker was also known as a compassionate supervising juvenile court judge in Long Beach and Downey and, for a time, presided over the entire Los Angeles County Juvenile Court system. He retired in 2004.

“His service in the Judiciary was highlighted by his innovative work in the field of Juvenile Justice that centered around the concept of saving the child for a productive life in society,” said former Santa Monica Mayor Nat Trives, a longtime friend.

“He was a highly respected Jurist and I will miss him."

Tucker was born in Santa Monica in 1934. His father was a physician who migrated from Kansas and his mother a teacher and Realtor from Georgia.

Tucker graduated from University High School in Los Angeles in 1952 and the University of Southern California, where he was an honor student and majored in international studies. He then attended Howard University Law School, earning his J.D. in 1960.

Tucker grew up in a home in the Pico Neighborhood that was a gathering place for black leaders, Trives said.

“I was introduced to the world of black celebrity in the Tucker home where I was invited to many social events,” said Trives, who served as Santa Monica’s mayor from 1975 to 1977.

“I met members of the Jack and Jill of America which is a membership organization of mothers with children ages 2 to19, dedicated to nurturing future African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.”

While much of Tucker’s career centered in the Long Beach area, his friendship with Trives remained intact, Trives said.

“We both valued public service and enjoyed a friendship that spanned 65 plus years,” the former mayor said.

The Santa Monica City Council adjourned its meeting Tuesday in Tucker's memory.

“Speaking on behalf of the entire community, we convey to his family our deepest condolences,” the Council’s motion said.  “He will be sorely missed.”

Tucker is survived by his daughter, Angelique Chamberlain and her husband, Byron.


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