Dr. James A. Mays, a cardiologist, author, community activist and philanthropist who provided low-cost health care for decades in South Los Angeles, has died at the age of 76.
Mays died Aug. 21 at his home in Gardena, according to his longtime publicist Audrey P. Franklyn.
Sometimes called the “Marcus Welby of the Ghetto”, Mays was perhaps best-known for his Promenade of Prominence, Watts’ answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The sidewalk monument on Success Street, across from the Nickerson Gardens housing project, features granite-carved tributes to individuals who made notable contributions to the community.
Mays started Promenade of Prominence in 1988 with 13 honorees. It gained Los Angeles County historic landmark status in 1992. With Mays’ help, the concept spread to other cities too, including Inglewood and Compton.
A 1965 graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, Mays founded the Mays Medical Clinic at 8915 S. Broadway in Los Angeles. He became a community activist and leader, and a renaissance man who authored several novels, as well as songs, poems and a comic book series.
In 1983, Mays founded the Adopt-a-Family Endowment, which provides black professional role models for families struggling to rise out of the welfare system. The program was recognized by President Reagan.
Former Los Angeles Police Chief and City Councilman Bernard C. Parks weighed in on Mays’ passing today:
“My family and I are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. James A. Mays,” Parks said in a statement released by his son, Bernard Parks Jr. “Dr. Mays was a longtime community advocate and icon, who generously made his medical services available to benefit the people of South Los Angeles. He will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”
Mays had recently returned from Centinela Hospital, where he was being treated for emphysema and asthma.
He is survived by four sons.
Mays’ funeral is planned for Saturday, Sept. 5 at Inglewood Park Cemetery, according to Franklyn.
—City News Service