Louis Brathwaite, Former Local Community Leader

Louis Brathwaite, Former Local Community Leader

Parker Bradford, Editor of Community

Black History Month is a time to commemorate some of the most important black figures in history, both in our country and around the world. But all too often, people focus more on the larger figures renowned internationally for their deeds and less on the more local figures that shaped our individual communities. One such figure, a former community leader and former board member for our school district’s governing board, is Louis Brathwaite.

Brathwaite was born on April 25, 1933, in New York City. He served in multiple management positions with the U.S. Air Force and was a member of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, serving for 38 years before retiring in 1990. In 1969, he moved to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Brathwaite was involved in multiple aspects of our community, including the SCV Boys and Girls Club, the SCV Committee on Aging, and the SCV Senior Center. Executive director of the SCV Committee on Aging Brad Berens said Brathwaite put himself at “the two ends of the spectrum of the population in need, and [he] brought both toward the middle.” Brathwaite was very involved in the SCV Boys and Girls Club headquarters in Newhall and created the initial idea behind the Bouquet Canyon Senior housing.

When Brathwaite was asked to run for the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board, he went to then editor of The Signal Ruth Newhall, who said he would be represented as the first black candidate for political office in the Santa Clarita Valley, though Brathwaite said he would rather it not be presented that way. Brathwaite went on to win the election. Former U.S. House Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, who served on the school board with Brathwaite, said that “He set patterns for others to follow… Louis was a participant who always made the world a better place or at least attempted to try.”

Brathwaite also played an integral role in the Santa Clarita city formation effort, successfully convincing then supervisor Kenneth Hahn to attend an important meeting for city formation, and securing $3 million from the county for the new city. Despite running unsuccessfully for a seat on the first City Council, he was appointed to the planning commission upon its creation in 1988 by his friend and former Mayor Carl Boyer. He served until 1998, the longest anyone had served on the commission, when health issues caused him to retire. While on the commission, his main concerns were said to be primarily with “the need to achieve a kind of balance with all communities in the city,” said Connie Worden-Roberts, another member of the planning commission.

Brathwaite completed his autobiography only a week before his death, titled “Black Man’s Job, White Man’s World,” wherein he wrote of his accomplishments in his federal career in a time when Black Americans were rarely found in such positions. Boyer, an editor of the book, said that in his early years Brathwaite “had to work twice as hard at everything to be accepted like anyone else, but it made him into a guy who achieved a tremendous amount in life.”

Brathwaite held an integral role in our community, and he will be remembered as a leader with a strong character and an even stronger heart. This community would not be the same without him, and his work continues to affect our community to this very day.