A FAMILy's fight
The challenge of being black in glendale
DR. ALVA GARROTT AND LILLIE DE JARNETTE GARROTT
The few Black families who were successful at buying property in Glendale found an unwelcoming atmosphere and a bitter fight against race restrictive covenants.
Dr. Alva Garrott was a trailblazer in Southern California when he became Los Angeles’ first African-American dentist.
In 1907, his wife Lillie De Jarnette Garrott was suffering from a medical condition and the family moved from Los Angeles into temporary housing (a “tent-house”) in Glendale.
Several months after their arrival, they received a threatening letter that opened, “To the only colored man in Glendale” warning the family they would suffer “consequences” if they did not move immediately. Terrorized but without options, the family stayed until Lillie died in 1916. Still, their battle against discrimination continued.
HOMER L. GARROTT
The family fought racism in Glendale on multiple fronts. In 1916, Dr. Garrott’s brother, H. L. Garrott, a Los Angeles police officer, bought a property with the title transferred by the Title Guarantee and Trust Company. Title Guarantee held real estate titles all over Southern California and was then owned by Glendale’s early developer and promoter, Leslie Brand. Title Guarantee sued H. L. Garrott to prevent him from occupying the residence because there was a race restrictive covenant in the deed.
Black civil rights attorney Willis O. Tyler represented H. L. Garrott winning in Superior Court and on appeal. The court did not rule on Garrott’s constitutional rights in the case, but rather focused on the owner’s right to transfer their property to whomever they chose. Although the ruling was seen as a victory for African American property rights at the time, race restrictive covenants were simply legally rewritten and proliferated until they were ruled valid but unenforceable in 1948. After 1948, race restrictive covenants continued by mutual agreement among property owners until the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
THE DE JARNETTE FAMILY
In 1916, Lillie De Jarnette Garrott, wife of Dr. Alva Garrott, was interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery where Alva had purchased burial plots early in the cemetery’s founding. However, around 1917 the park was re-conceived as Forest Lawn Memorial-Park with racial restrictions. Lillie’s sister, Hattie De Jarnette Hamilton, an activist in her own right, passed away in 1922 and their mother, Mrs. C. S. “Callie” De Jarnette, purchased a plot for Hattie at Forest Lawn. When Forest Lawn received Hattie’s death certificate, which indicated her race, they refused her burial even though Lillie was already interred at the cemetery. Forest Lawn claimed they had been defrauded by Mrs. De Jarnette because they would never have sold a plot to an African American. In appellate court, Mrs. De Jarnette was represented by prominent civil rights attorney Willis O. Tyler. who had successfully represented Lillie's brother-in-law, H. L. Garrott in a pervious trail regarding race restrictive covenants. Nevertheless, Forest Lawn’s exclusion based on race was upheld.
In 1928, Alva and Lillie's daughter passed away and Alva had Lillie re-interred at Rosedale Cemetery (now Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery) in Los Angeles where Hattie had also been moved. At Rosedale Cemetery, anyone could be buried regardless of race or religion. Forest Lawn kept its rule “that no interment of any body or the ashes of any body other than that of a human being of the Caucasian race” could be buried there until decades of lawsuits finally ended discrimination in private property transactions.
THE GARROTT AND DE JARNETTE FAMILY
The California Eagle (1871-1964), the oldest and longest running African American newspaper in the Western United States, ran Dr. Alva Garrott's obituary on July 24, 1952. The obituary tells of a remarkable life, making note of the struggles Dr. Alva Garrott and his family faced while in Glendale fighting for their civil rights. "Militant in his defense of civil rights, Dr. Garrott braved threats of violence with his then wife, Mrs. Lillie De Jarnette Garrott, his two sons, Alva C. Jr., and Robert W. and his daughter Miriam." Forest Lawn kept its rule “that no interment of any body or the ashes of any body other than that of a human being of the Caucasian race” could be buried there. Such restrictions at cemeteries were challenged in courts, and eventually made illegal by the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act. Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.
Dr. and Mrs. Alva Curtis Garrott, Sr. and their three children, Glendale, circa 1905. OpenUCLA
Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/hr73f41z-89112.
"Threat in Glendale: Negro Family is Ordered in Anonymous Communication to Leave the Town." Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 1907, p. II10. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.glendalepubliclibrary.idm.oclc.org/hnplatimes/docview/159101591/967AF29D1AB541A1PQ/1?accountid=11124.
Dr. and Mrs. Alva Curtis Garrott, Sr., Washington, D. C., circa 1894. OpenUCLA Collections, Miriam
Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/x295381z-89112.
Group portrait with the Alva Curtis Garrott family, Glendale, circa 1907. OpenUCLA Collections,
Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/gt715r1z-89112.
Dr. and Mrs. Alva Curtis Garrott, Sr. and their three children, Glendale, circa 1905.
OpenUCLA Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/33h2p01z-89112.
Lillie Garrott, Glendale, between 1901-1916. OpenUCLA
Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/mr19ww1z-89112.
Family home of Dr. and Mrs. Alva Curtis Garrott, Glendale, between 1908-1915. OpenUCLA
Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/7n02xv1z-89112
“Public Service: City Hall Courts.: Draw Color Line in Realty Deal.” Los Angeles Times, 18 Jan. 1916, p. II10. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.glendalepubliclibrary.idm.oclc.org/docview/160234520/B8265620A8C24A95PQ/1?accountid=11124.
“Deed Restrictions Declared Invalid.” Glendale Evening News, 25 July 1919, p. 1. Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/cgl_003829?q=glendale+evening+news+July+25+1919.
“Judge Shenk on Property Rights.”
De Jarnette Family, Montgomery, Alabama, 1894. OpenUCLA Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/22984s1z-89112.
Court of Appeal of California, Third District. Forest Lawn Memorial Park Ass'n v. De Jarnette. California Appellate Reports, vol. 79, 1926, p. 601+. Casetext, https://casetext.com/case/forest-lawn-mp-assn-v-de-jarnette.
"Burial of Negress Is Suit Basis: Cemetery Charges Plot Was Obtained on False Pretenses By Woman." Los Angeles Times, 3 Dec. 1922, p. IV12. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.glendalepubliclibrary.idm.oclc.org/docview/161234198?accountid=11124.
Gathering of the Garrott and Dejarnette (or De Jarnette) families, Los Angeles, 1940s (?). OpenUCLA
Collections, Miriam Matthews Collection. University of California, Los Angeles, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/nj59f21z-89112.
"Three Pioneers Die During Week: Dr. A.C. Garrott." California Eagle, 24 July 1952, pp. 1+. Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/la_caleagle_reel41/page/n393/mode/2up.