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John Ferraro


John Ferraro was born May 14, 1924 in the working class suburb of Cudahy, California, south of Los Angeles.  While attending the local high school Bell, Ferraro performed well enough in the classroom and on the football field to attract a scholarship from the University of Southern California.


Ferraro started his studies at USC in 1942, and after having an All-American football season in 1944, his time at USC was interrupted by service in the United States naval Reserve during World War II.  When he returned from the battlefield to the football field, he again earned the honor of All-American in 1947, and graduated from USC in the spring of 1948 with a degree in Business Administration.


Ferraro’s success on the football field quickly transformed into success in the business world.  Using the skills from his business degree, discipline from the Navy, and the persistence of a two-time All-American, Ferraro ran a lucrative insurance company on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  His football accomplishments did not go unnoticed, either—he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.


Yet John Ferraro’s greatest successes came in the volatile realm of Los Angeles politics.  Ferraro holds the longest tenure of a City Council member, a span of 35 years during which he was re-elected nine times.  As a member of the City Council, Ferraro gained a reputation as a skilled conciliator who knew just when to wield his considerable influence.  Ferraro was instrumental in bringing both the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles and the 2000 Democratic National Convention.  He worked to bring a peaceful end to the tenure of police chief Daryl F. Gates as racial tensions lingered in the wake of the Rodney King incident.  And in 1999, the Staples Center opened its doors to patrons, largely because of Ferraro’s work behind the scenes with the center’s frustrated developers.  While serving as President in the last 18 years of his career, Ferraro was widely praised for holding together a divided council, and was described by associates as a “leader” and conciliator.”


Ferraro’s legacy will live on not only in the memories of Angelenos, but also in a more tangible sense:  the Department of Water and Power’s general office building is now called the John Ferraro Building, in commemoration of the man who gave so much of his energy and talent to the Los Angeles community.