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Harold Hambrick, Jr.

Community Treasure, Health Care Advocate
and President of the Los Angeles Black Business Expo  (BBX)

Harold Hambrick, Jr., President of the Los Angeles Black Business Expo (BBX) and the second largest African American-focused consumer show in the country has died.  He was 71.

As president of BBX, Hambrick took pride in showing off the history, services and accomplishments of the Black community, which he referred to as “the family.”  He promoted the show as a way to introduce “relatives” to each other and to those outside the family.    The first Black consumer show to run in the Tom Bradley Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, the annual effort was massive. In its heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the show included up to 400 vendors and nearly 300 workers on event day, providing an array of services.

“We allow folk to use their God-given talents to help us pull off one of the largest events held in celebration of the Black family,” he said.

Hambrick’s work was driven by the word “family” for the past 45 years.   From biological family to the entire African American family, his conversations revolved around the power of “connectedness;” how we’ve worked together in the past and how we must continue to work together in order to leave businesses and cultural institutions from which future generations can benefit.  As a demonstration of his support of the “community family” he could frequently be found at the events in the Black community, from book festivals to food festivals, to marketplace–type events and to music festivals –  large and small.

Hambrick took pride in the fact that people who might not have seen each other in a long time, would reunite at the Expo. Attendees could be seen chatting in the aisles, visiting the vendors or participating in one of the Expo’s signature events, such as the Tom Bradley Business Institute, the Tastin’ Black Culture Food Court, West Coast “Coolture” Fashion Show; West Coast Black Music Festival, West Coast GospeLive, Kids World, Black College Row, The Health, Sports and Fitness Pavilion, Black Writers On Tour, the Hair Show, Youth Summit and Auto Land.  BBX also offered businesses an opportunity to connect with owners of Black Newspapers throughout the state.  At the 2006 Expo, Hambrick pulled together a meeting with then-Governor Schwarzenegger and publishers of African American newspapers throughout the state to discuss issues of concern to the Black press.

Born in New Orleans and raised in Slidell, Louisiana, Hambrick graduated from a segregated high school with 50 classmates.  Three days after graduation, he left the state to join his parents and siblings in Los Angeles.  Realizing that he wanted to be a part of the developments in Watts, he left a job at IBM in 1967 to join the South Central Multi-Purpose Health Service Center, which later became Watts Health Foundation (WHF), and later Watts Health Systems (WHS).  For more than 35 years, he served in several capacities, including Vice President of Public Affairs.  He was involved with WHF/WHS in its heyday, when the conglomerate had several business interests, including BBX, purchased as a seven year old entity in 1996.   Through his vision, and an increase in corporate sponsorship, the size of the staff increased and the Expo grew.

While Hambrick is widely known for his role with BBX, he has been influential in the field of healthcare for more than 40 years.  Since joining WHF/WHS, he has championed the cause of access to health care for residents of low income communities.  While serving as V.P., under the leadership of Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr., President and CEO of WHF/WHS, Hambrick traveled throughout California and across the country to ensure that the plight of the underserved was heard by governmental agencies and legislative bodies. Active in the California Black Health Network, he also served on the Community Advisory Council at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.  Additionally, according to Dr. Oden, in the 1970s and 80s, Hambrick founded the Western Association of Community Health Centers and the California Community Health Institute (CCHI).   He was co-founder of the Health Care Coalition for the Truly Needy and a member of the National Association of HMOs.

Along with his work at WHF, he was immersed in all things Watts.  Arriving in Los Angeles when community-based organizations flourished and Watts was the center of activism and cultural pride, Hambrick became a part of the community’s energy, spirit and in later years, its revitalization.  He was a strong promoter of the Watts Summer Festival and increased the profile of the Watts Christmas Parade and the Watts Martin Luther King Breakfast.  Hambrick previously served as President of the Watts United Credit Union and was instrumental in the rebirth of the Watts Neighborhood Center (Mfundi Institute).

One of his proudest achievements was his involvement in the re-birth of the Watts Coffee House.  With a vision to provide a sit-down restaurant for the residents, Hambrick, through WHF, was instrumental in reopening the restaurant across the street from the original one that burned down in the 1965 rebellion.  Located at 103rd and Wilmington (the previous site of The Relish House), the restaurant, since reopening in 1997, is a hub of activity with meals prepared by Chef and Manager Desiree E. Edwards. Hambrick’s vision appealed  to Edwards; using the restaurant as a way to provide a service to the community, but more importantly, a training site as a stepping stone to better jobs in the restaurant industry.

According to Edwards, Hambrick said, “we’re not putting you here to become a millionaire. These jobs will provide skills and independence for community residents.”

Hambrick was introduced to the world of business and entrepreneurship by his biological family.  His father worked alongside an uncle in the funeral business in the 1950s and 60s.  The Hambrick Family Mortuary, started by Harold Sr. in 1975 in Gonzales, Louisiana, remains in full operation with the younger brother, Darryl as CEO.   Hambrick Jr.’s siblings have other ventures, including two in Donaldsonville, LA: Hambonz Piano Room, a nightclub located in the business district and the nationally recognized River Road African American Museum, founded by Hambrick and his sister, Kathe. Another brother, George, owns two technical services companies in Southern California. And, brother Donald is the family’s legal counsel.

Always one to celebrate his Louisiana history and culture, Hambrick was one of the founders of LALA (Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee Inc.) in 1988.  In addition to being on its Board of Directors, he often served as the Master of Ceremony for the annual Mardi Gras Scholarship Ball.  In 2005, he was selected as the LALA King.  Hambrick would sport the appropriate regalia and participate with the Second Line dancers at selected events.  His collection of New Orleans memorabilia included Mardi Gras Indian costumes and a Zulu headdress.

Hambrick had already set his sights on getting to know “long lost relatives.”  In 2008, he forged an alliance with Black Expos in several states and networked with them to raise the profile of Black business and educate African Americans about their spending power.

A graduate of Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Hambrick was also the owner of an income tax service in the Crenshaw district for more than 30 years.

He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife, Marguerett, three children, Jeffrey, Sharon and Tyra, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild, four siblings and a host of relatives and friends.

Public visitation will be held on Thursday, October 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Harrison-Ross Mortuary 4601 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles.   “Memorial Remembrances of Harold Hambrick” will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. also on Thursday, at Greater Liberty Baptist Church, 6557 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles.  The celebration of life funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, October 17, at Victory Baptist Church, 4802 S. McKinley Avenue, Los Angeles.  The Eulogist will be Rev. Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr., Pastor, Bryant Temple A.M.E. Church.  The Officiant will be Rev. Theodore Peters, Harold’s cousin and Pastor of the Greater Liberty Baptist Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the River Road African American Museum, C/O Harold Hambrick Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 266, Donaldsonville, LA 90343.  

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