LOS ANGELES — Longtime writer and civic activist Larry Aubry, a staunch champion for social justice for more than 50 years, has died.
Aubry, 86, who was known for writing scathing and insightful commentaries that exposed corruption, wrongdoing and the inequalities facing African Americans, died at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood May 16.
The father of five — including author, writer and professor Erin Aubry Kaplan — Aubrey was unapologetically black in his writing and outlook. He spent his life advocating for equality and justice for African Americans.
Gloria Aubry, who was married to Aubrey for 64 years, said her husband suffered a hip fracture in April that sent him to the hospital and led to complications following surgery.
“Our life was good,” she said, tearfully reflecting on her husband. ”We had a wonderful marriage and relationship.”
Aubry’s activism was sparked as a student at John C. Fremont High School during the 1940s, where he was one of the first blacks to attend. Students regularly hung swinging effigies of blacks from trees outside the school to protest the school’s integration.
Earl “Skip” Cooper, president and CEO of the Black Business Association of Los Angeles, knew Aubry for more than 40 years. Like Aubry, Cooper also felt the sting of segregation that once dominated daily life for blacks in Los Angeles.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, black people could not go to certain restaurants or hotels because of the blatant racism that we had to endure,” Cooper recalled. “Aubry grew up in the time when black folks couldn’t even travel west of Broadway.
“Aubry was committed to the betterment of African Americans, young and old,” Cooper said. “He served on the Inglewood school board where he was an outstanding vocal advocate on behalf of the students. I also had the pleasure of serving with Aubry when he was a board member of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP.”
Cooper said Aubrey was a firebrand who worked for decades building coalitions and advocating for unity and justice for African Americans. “He was passionate, vocal, dedicated and committed. Aubry was out there,” Cooper said.
Aubry started out in the county probation department as a social worker but soon became involved in local politics.
He never seemed to miss a meeting. For decades, Aubry was a regular fixture at committee and community gatherings and town halls, his arms firmly crossed as his trademark steely-eyed gaze seemingly scrutinized speakers and politicians as if weighing the truth of their words.
He served on numerous committees including the Inglewood school board; vice president and education chair of the Los Angeles NAACP, a board member of Multicultural Collaborative, a member of the Inglewood Coalition for Drug and Violence Prevention; vice president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute; a member of the Reparations United Front and the Committee to Save King Drew Medical Center.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, recalled Aubry in a statement.
“When I was a young man working for then Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, I met this extraordinary individual, a tireless fighter for the disenfranchised in our community.
“Larry Aubry was the type of man who stood for something — justice. He was fearless, taking leaders to task and calling out racism and oppression. … He was a life-long activist whose agenda was solely that of lifting up black people.
“Larry, because you shed a spotlight on the dark corners of systemic inequities, our path forward is more purposeful and that much clearer,” added.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who knew Aubry for more than three decades, reflected on his life.
“He was the Godfather of South L.A., a staunch advocate for our neighborhoods who fought to build bridges and form coalitions in order to advance our South L.A. community. He was a social worker, a former member of the Inglewood school board, a former vice president of the Los Angeles NAACP and so much more.
“I’ll always remember Larry as an advisor and as a friend,” Bass added. “There wasn’t a meeting or an event he wouldn’t be at and he’d always ask the hard-hitting questions. He will be missed but his work on behalf of our community will continue.”
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters also remembered Aubry fondly.
“Like many in Los Angeles, I first came to know Larry Aubry on the picket line. Larry was the epitome of an activist. He spoke truth to power and was persistent in his pursuit of fairness.
“On behalf of the entire Greater Los Angeles community, I thank Larry Aubry for always showing up, speaking out, and using his influence to ensure that African Americans could have a good quality of life and have access to the fair and equitable services they need and deserve,” Waters added.
Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson said Aubry “never forgot where he came from.”
“He was so proud of who he was, an African American,” Wesson said. He worked tirelessly to speak the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may have made others, to expose injustice in an effort to make our community a better place. It didn’t stop at activism, either. As a friend, Larry told you what you needed to know and not what you wanted to hear.”
David Horne, professor emeritus at Cal State Northridge and the founder of the Reparations United Front who knew Aubry for more than 35 years, called him a true philosopher in every sense of the word.
“He was always willing to engage anyone on the subject of improving citizen participation, advancement and civil rights,” Horne said.
Horne also recalled that Aubry did not suffer fools lightly.
“Either you had to be ready for a logical engagement on whatever the subject was or you needed to sit down because Larry would roll all over you,” Horne said.
Former City Councilman Robert Farrell, 83, said, “I knew Larry for more than 50 years. He and I were both from New Orleans. The Aubry family played a major role in the growth and development of the black community here.
“Larry was always an activist,” Farrell added. “During the time that I knew him, I had an opportunity to share life with one of the most interesting persons in Los Angeles. Our most recent collaboration was with the Black Community Clergy Labor Alliance and the Advocates for Black Strategic Alternative. He was a member of dozens of organizations that were dedicated to the advancement of our people.
“He was a longtime intellectual who combined activism, intellect and dedication to getting the task done,” Farrell said. “I will truly miss him.”