FEB 15, 1988 – 33 years ago today, the late Los Angeles County Supervisor, Kenneth Hahn, held a campaign brunch to run for an unprecedented 10th term. Rumors of a famous and staunch supporter arriving circulated the room. Soon, people felt the presence of Muhammad Ali at the Cockatoo Inn.
Up until that point in 1988, Kenneth Hahn had already been on the board for 36 years. Prior to that, Hahn, an LA native and graduate of Pepperdine, elisted in the navy in 1942. After serving with the US Seventh Fleet, he returned to teach at Pepperdine in 1947.
After running for LA City Council in 1947, Hahn successfully unseated the incumbent in his district. Voters elected him into office at age 26, the youngest ever coucilman. When he left City Council in 1952, Hahn became LA County Supervisor.
He persuaded Ronald Reagan to sign a bill authorizing the provision of non-doctor emergency medical personnel. According to his Wikipedia, Hahn was the only city official to greet Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961, “after confronting the police dogs and water hoses of Birmingham.” His support for funding a rail network led to the creation of LA Metro Rail. He helped the Dodgers move to LA from Brooklyn.
Back on February 15, 1988, photographer Mike Mullen captured this photo of Hahn and Muhammad Ali at the Cockatoo Inn:
On display was Ali’s playful charisma, something that engaged everyone he encountered. Hahn, who reportedly suffered a stroke the previous year, seemed to enjoy the meeting as well. Ali at the time had his own health struggles. Doctors diagnosed him with Parkinson’s Disease just four years prior. His outgoing physicality naturally declined in years following.
The brunch at the Cockatoo was part of a successful campaign that helped Hahn win 84% of the vote in 1988.
Final Years and Legacy
Hahn retired in 1992, after 40 years as county supervisor. Months before his final days in service, the county renamed Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. Upon his death in 1997, the New York Times named Hahn a “political giant.” He was a man who helped bring the Dodgers to LA, who was known to stop and chat with people on the sidewalk.
In 1977, Hahn laid the groundwork to transform 400 acres into a California State Park in LA County. It opened in 1983 as Baldwin Hills Recreational Area. The park was renamed Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area to recognize Hahn’s efforts to preserve the area. Some also have called it, “LA’s Central Park.” It’s a stone’s throw from the old Cockatoo Inn site:
As for Muhammad Ali, his legacy as a diplomat, humanitarian, and philanthropist is well documented. He donated millions to charity organizations and disadvantaged people of all religious backgrounds. His Wiki page estimates his efforts helped feed over 22 million people affected by hunger around the world.
Time and again, the Cockatoo has stood alongside the men and women who made mid-century history. What was your experience at the Cockatoo like during the 80’s? Comment below!