LOS ANGELES — Ida Kinney, a civil rights activist who was believed to be the San Fernando Valley’s oldest African-American, has died. She was 104.
Kinney, who helped break color barriers with employers, unions and hospitals in the Valley, died on New Year’s Day at the home of her caregiver, Christel Flynn, in Lake View Terrace.
Born Ida Ford on May 25, 1904, she was raised in Lafayette County, Ark., by grandparents who had been slaves. To start from those humble beginnings, live a life fighting for civil rights and then finally see an African-American elected president of the United States was a source of tremendous pride.
“She thanked God,” Flynn said. “She was thankful she lived to see all the things she struggled for all her life come to fruition. That she was able to see a black man run for office and in fact win — that was just the joy of her life.”
Kinney, who was 16 when she moved with her mother to Santa Monica, graduated from Santa Monica High School. She later attended Philander Smith College in Arkansas for a year, then studied for a year at UCLA, where she met and married Carl Binion.
Still suffering from wounds inflicted during World War I, he died after about a decade of marriage. In 1940, the widow moved to Van Nuys.
She would later recall that police issued her 16 traffic tickets within months of her moving to a white neighborhood in Van Nuys — because of her skin color, she believed — but she was able to find a lawyer who persuaded a judge to overturn all of them.
She married Perry Kinney in 1952. The couple moved to Pacoima in 1954, using a white friend to help them purchase the home because developers wouldn’t sell to blacks.
Over the years, she helped found the first black church in the Valley, successfully pushed for a multipurpose senior center in Pacoima and helped persuade Valley hospitals to allow black women to have their babies there.