. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NET: Citymakers – Sam Yorty – January 9, 1969 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Los Angeles has had no shortage of colorful figures gracing the offices of City Hall. One of those colorful figures was Sam Yorty. As Mayor from 1961-1973, during a time of great social upheaval but also a time when the city had its fair share of growing pains, Yorty held sway over a city rapidly on the rise.
To say he was controversial was an understatement. But in keeping with the oddball nature that seemed to be part of L.A.’s heritage, Yorty seemed to fit right in. Opposing Civil Rights, desegregation busing and the rise of Feminism in the early 1970s, Yorty was also a big supporter of L.A. city growth. Ironically, Yorty had the first female Deputy Mayor and his office was fully integrated. But that didn’t stop him from vocally labeling figures of the Civil Rights Movement as Communist dupes, or being charged with ignoring issues surrounding the explosive Watts Riots in 1965. He had been implicated in a number of bribe scandals involving the L.A. Harbor; one of which resulted in the indictments and convictions of four City Commissioners. Further damaging his reputation was his repeated and vocal disclosure of evidence related to the Robert Kennedy Assassination in 1968 and his much publicized membership in a Segregated Country club.
After an unsuccessful run for Governor as well as Senator, Yorty became something of an Absentee Mayor – gaining the nickname “Travelin’ Sam” since he was out of town 40% of his last year in office.
This interview, done at Brandeis University for NET (the forerunner of PBS) on January 9, 1969, Yorty is asked about his positions regarding the allegations and the then-current atmosphere of Los Angeles.
Yorty had the well-known reputation of having a short-fuse when it came to interviews and press conferences. He gives evidence of that here.
A glimpse of Los Angeles history and who was running the place during those pivotal times.
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