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Funeral services to be held Dec. 15 for Leon Garr, 103

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Funeral services will be held at First AME Church at 11 a.m. Dec. 15 for Leon Garr, a longtime South Los Angeles businessman who died Dec. 5 at the age of 103.

A viewing will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at Angelus Funeral Home, 3875 Crenshaw Blvd.

An entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader, Garr was born in Ruston, Louisiana, on March 23, 1914. Although he only had a third-grade education, he was able to start a construction business, which he parlayed into property holdings that included apartments, motels and child care centers.

He established the Leon and Mattie Garr Family Foundation to better serve the South Los Angeles community he called home.

He was a member of the Black Business Association of Los Angeles, which honored him with its Life Achievement Award in 2008. In May of this year, the city of Los Angeles renamed the intersection of Vermont and Gage avenues as Leon Garr Square in honor of his contributions to the community

For many years, he served as a mentor to many business people in South Los Angeles, offering advice that included “go to church, become educated, work hard and own your own business, be honest and always try to work as a team.”

One of his major life accomplishments was purchasing a failed savings and loan in 1990, which he saved and turned into Founders Bank, which became the only national bank west of the Mississippi River that was owned by an African-American. It is now known as One United Bank.

A documentary on his life, “This Life of Mine: The Fascinating Life of Leon T. Garr,” was directed by actor Antwone Fisher and debuted at the 2012 Pan African Film Festival.

His wife Mattie preceded him in death in 2004.

In lieu of flowers, his family requested that donations be made to the Leon and Mattie Garr Foundation, 6709 LaTijera Blvd., Los Angeles, 90045-2017.

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