Cataloging Rolland J. Curtis

Lucia Odono, Digitization & Special Collections

I found this... what will you find?

Cataloging is a very interesting and detail-oriented task. I have been doing it for almost two years, and I still feel like a newbie. There can be so much going on in a single photo; you learn something new every day. I have had the pleasure of cataloging the Rolland J. Curtis Collection which will soon be completely available on Tessa, home of the Los Angeles Public Library’s online photo collections. My latest folder had a series of photos featuring the late Tom Bradley assisting Wilson Riles in his ultimately successful campaign to be elected as California State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1970. They visited several businesses in Watts, including the Magnificent Brothers Barbershop and Salon #2, located at 1568 103rd Street East, Los Angeles, California. While studying this photo and preparing to catalog it, I recognized a photo of Tom Bradley shaking hands with a female staff member from the salon on the far back wall. Now the photo was blurry and not the focus of the photo I was cataloging, but Tom Bradley’s silhouette and profile were unmistakable. I got excited when I realized this and called my supervisor over to double-check and make sure I wasn’t seeing things. She confirmed and agreed that it was not only a photo of Tom Bradley but a photo of Bradley that I had previously cataloged from another folder. This folder also contained photos from the Magnificent Brothers Barbershop most likely taken during Bradley’s 1969 mayoral campaign. I really love being part of the important preservation of our city’s history and legacy.

Mayor Bradley shaking hands with a man in a barbershop. A framed photo of the mayor hangs on the wall. A computer-generated arrow has been added and points to the photo on the wall.
Councilmember Tom Bradley is shown shaking hands with unidentified customers and staff inside the Magnificent Brothers Barbershop and Salon # 2, located at 1568 E 103rd Place, Los Angeles, California. Photograph circa 1970. The highlighted photo is from Tom Bradley’s 1969 mayoral campaign. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

Tom Bradley is shown shaking hands with an unidentified woman at a barbershop and salon.
Photo hanging on the back wall of the 1st photo. Councilmember Tom Bradley is shown shaking hands with an unidentified woman at a barbershop and salon, with a few customers partially visible behind them. This establishment may be the Magnificent Brothers Barbershop and Salon #2, located at 1568 103rd Street East, Los Angeles, California. The image was possibly taken during Councilman Bradley's 1969 mayoral campaign. Photograph circa 1969. See images 00122182 through 00122214; 00125504 and 00139674 through 00139689 for additional photos in this series. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

Here is a little snippet about the photographer:

Rolland J. Curtis ("Speedy" to his friends) moved to Los Angeles from Louisiana in 1942, and in 1960 joined the LAPD, which is where he met Tom Bradley. In 1964, shortly after Bradley was elected to the City Council, Curtis joined his staff as Field Deputy, and then Billy G. Mills' staff in 1967. Curtis was murdered in his home in 1979 after spending the day delivering Mother's Day bouquets to the community. An obituary in the Los Angeles Sentinel recalls, "Whenever there was a community affair, 'Speedy' would be seen right down the front, sometimes taking pictures with his huge view camera, or sometimes just there to lend his support to community projects. But he was always there and he always had a smile."

And for those who do not know or remember who Tom Bradley was, here you go!

Thomas J. "Tom" Bradley (1917-1998) was a popular Los Angeles mayor that served in office from 1973-1993. Bradley's five-term tenure (20 years), marked the longest tenure by any mayor in Los Angeles city's history – surpassing Fletcher Bowron (15 years in office). Bradley's career started in 1940 when he joined the Los Angeles Police Department where in a short period of time, he reached the rank of lieutenant – the highest rank held by an African American police officer at the time. While working on the force, Bradley attended night school at Southwestern University School of Law, and in 1956 he passed his bar exam and received his law degree. From 1963-1972 Bradley served on the Los Angeles City Council, 10th District, and while in office challenged incumbent mayor Sam Yorty for the 1969 mayoral seat, which he lost. He again ran in 1973, and this time successfully unseated Yorty to become the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles.

Nine years after his mayoral win, in 1982 and again in 1986, Bradley ran for Governor of California, but was defeated both times by Republican George Deukmejian. During his record-breaking tenure, Mayor Bradley hosted the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, was a driving force behind construction of the Los Angeles' light rail network, pushed for the expansion of Los Angeles International Airport and the development of the terminals in use today, and was elected for a fifth mayoral term in 1989. He chose to leave office in 1993, rather than seek election to a sixth term. In 1996 Bradley suffered a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery; the following day he suffered a stroke which left him unable to speak clearly for the rest of his life, and his condition limited his public appearances. Sadly, in 1998 at the age of 80, Tom Bradley suffered a fatal heart attack while at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. He is interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery. Mayor Bradley was the first and, to date, the longest-running African American mayor of this city.

Tom Bradley is seen posing while sitting on a chair.
Councilmember Tom Bradley is seen sitting for the camera while having his portrait taken at City Hall. He wears a brown tweed sport coat, tan tie, white shirt and brown pants. Photograph circa 1969. See images 00122392 through 00122404 for additional photos in this series. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

I have many memories of Mayor Bradley walking the schoolyard of my Catholic grammar school, Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa on 4th St. and Evergreen Ave. in Boyle Heights which I attended from 1972 - 1980. He was very present in our neighborhood reaching out to meet the people he was serving.

For more exciting photos displaying all corners of Los Angeles history and more photos from the Rolland J. Curtis Collection make sure and stop by the Los Angeles Public Library website Tessa for an even closer look at our vast collection. I am grateful for the role that Rolland J. Curtis played in documenting so many historical moments in our city’s history simply because he was fortunate enough to be present at each event.

Tom Bradley shakes a shoeshiner’s hand.
Councilmember Tom Bradley (in suit) is shown shaking hands with an unidentified man at a shoe shine station. Another unidentified man stands next to the Councilman, and two pedestrians can be seen walking outside through the window. The image was possibly taken during Councilman Bradley's 1969 mayoral campaign. Photograph circa 1969. See images 00122182 through 00122214; 00125504 and 00139674 through 00139689 for additional photos in this series. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

Tom Bradley hands a plaque to a recipient.
Councilmember Tom Bradley receives a "Patience is Virtue" plaque from an unidentified woman, possibly a sponsor of the Neighborhood Boys Club. The boy pictured sitting in the background is an unidentified member of the club. The plaque reads, "To Mr. Tom Bradley - "Patience is Virtue" - Our Next 1972 Mayor of Los Angeles - Neighborhood All Boys Club - 1969." Photograph dated 1969. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

Tom Bradley shakes hand with a customer in a barbershop.
Councilmember Tom Bradley (at left) is shown shaking hands with an unidentified man sitting in a barber's chair. The man in the white shirt standing next to them, presumably the barber, holds a comb and electric razor, and a customer can be seen farther back looking at the camera and smiling. This establishment may be the Magnificent Brothers barbershop and salon #2, located at 1568 103rd Street East. The image was possibly taken during Councilman Bradley's 1969 mayoral campaign. Photograph circa 1969. Photographer, Rolland J. Curtis, Rolland J. Curtis Collection.

Photographs by Rolland J. Curtis, Los Angeles Photographers Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.