A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more.
Hosted by John Rabe

The Hidden History of LA: The mayor who helped lynch a man

LA Mayor Stephen Clark Foster
LA Mayor Stephen Clark Foster
Wikipedia Commons

Listen to story

Download this story 6MB

In Los Angeles City Hall on any given day, Mayor Eric Garcetti, might be inside working on his agenda for the city. But on that very site, 160 years ago, another L.A. mayor was working on a distinctly different effort.

Stephen Clark Foster was elected in 1854 and is often referred to as the first "American" mayor of L.A. Because right after Americans seized California from Mexico, the state was placed under military rule, and Foster was appointed alcalde, or mayor, to replace the dissolved Mexican government. After serving as alcalde, Foster served as a city councilperson and state senator before being formally elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1854.

In the 1850s, L.A. was small and lawless. When a man named David Brown killed one of his friends, a vigilance committee formed to lynch Brown. But before the mob could act, Mayor Foster intervened and argued that the courts should be given a chance to administer justice. He promised that if Brown got off, he would resign his office as mayor and lead the lynching party himself.

And — as Robert Petersen tells the story in his Hidden History of LA podcast — that's exactly what happened. Foster was not only re-elected, but also went on to serve as L.A. County Supervisor. Listen to the audio for the whole story, and learn more of LA's Hidden History.

And check out Robert's web page for more stories of LA's Hidden History, or sign up for the podcast on iTunes.