Former South L.A. resident Shirley Weber honored 

From City News Service

LOS ANGELES — In honor of the first Black secretary of state in California’s history, the Los Angeles City Council declared Feb. 14 Shirley N. Weber Day.

Councilman Curren Price introduced a resolution recognizing Weber’s legacy and numerous achievements in celebration of Black History Month.

Weber grew up in Price’s Ninth District, encompassing neighborhoods in South L.A.

“This morning she returned home as one of South Central’s greatest champions,” Price said during the council meeting as Weber looked on. “We celebrate the homecoming of an undeniable force who has merged from the streets of South L.A. to the epitome showing strength and grit.”

Weber was born in Hope, Arkansas (the same town as former President Bill Clinton) on Sept. 20, 1948, as one of eight children to Mildred and David Nash during the era of Jim Crow segregation laws.

Upon fleeing the rural south as a result of her father’s stand against racist white farmers and lynch mobs, she and her family relocated to Los Angeles in the Pueblo Del Rio housing projects.

At 26, Weber graduated from UCLA with her bachelor and master’s degrees, and her Ph.D., where she focused on communications.

Weber taught at L.A. City College and Cal State Los Angeles, then became one of the youngest professors at San Diego State University in 1972. During her tenure at San Diego State, she served as the chairperson of the Department of Africana Studies, president of the National Council for Black Studies and the executive director of San Diego’s Association of African American Educators.

She was elected to serve on the San Diego Board of Education for two terms, and chaired the San Diego Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission. 

While still on the faculty at San Diego State, Weber ran for the state Assembly as a Democrat in the 79th Assembly District in 2012, winning election as the first Black representative of the district, which encompasses southeastern San Diego. She was re-elected in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

As chair of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, Weber authored legislation to extend voting rights to people on parole and ensure that those on probation were aware of their voting rights. She also chaired the Select Committee on Campus Climate, which was formed to examine and mitigate hate crimes, student hunger, sexual assaults, homelessness and freedom of expression on California’s college and university campuses.

“Dr. Weber’s lifelong commitment to service within the realm of civil rights, voting rights, public safety, protections for those with disabilities, food insecurity and legislation on education led her to effectively fill the vacant office of California Secretary of State,” the City Council  resolution said.

Weber was appointed secretary of state by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021, succeeding Alex Padilla, who was appointed California’s junior U.S. senator after then-Sen. Kamala Harris was elected vice president of the United States.

She was the first Black to serve as secretary of state and only the fifth African-American to serve as a state constitutional officer in the state’s 173-year history.
Councilwoman Heather Hutt, who co-led the ceremony with Price, said it was a great honor to honor Weber.

“She’s an extraordinary women who’s made history and she really continues to inspire us all.”

Weber thanked the council members for their recognition. She recounted her family’s story and the challenges they faced, and thanked the city for the opportunities she was given and for shaping her life.

“It is important that you understand that I am a product of Los Angeles,” Weber said. “I say that every day because there are many things I learned in Los Angeles that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.”

Weber also emphasized her parents had done everything in their power to love and nurture her and her siblings.

“My only regret in life is that my parents are not here to see what they did, what they made, and see the contributions they made not just to my life, but to the life of California,” she added. “I always pay tribute to them.”

She underscored the importance of supporting Los Angeles youth and building communities that will drive them to success.

Weber has two adult children, three grandchildren and was married for 29 years to the late Daniel Weber. Her daughter, Akilah Weber of La Mesa, was elected to replace her in the 79th state Assembly District in April 2021.