Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 18, 2017

For M. L. King, Jr. Day: Compton Civic Plaza

You’ll enjoy my town, Los Angeles. You’ll go to the beach, Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, the Farmer’s Market, the Getty Center Museum, hike (or ski) in the mountains, and you’ll be exhausted by the time you do all that and a dozen more things.

You’ll never see a fraction of the place, just as you must leave New York, Paris, London and Rome scarcely explored on your visits to those cities.

As I’ve said before, one of the challenges of writing about L.A. is that it is actually many cities — There are more than 70 separate municipal entities within greater Los Angeles, and innumerable other enclaves and neighborhoods spread across an area measuring something like 100 miles by 60 miles.

One such place is the city of Compton.

With a population just short of 100,000, it’s ensconced within the vast sprawl of the Los Angeles Basin. Founded in 1888, it was the 8th municipality established in the greater L.A. area.

In the U.S., we observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day two days ago, and this post is a belated recognition.

Like cities everywhere, Compton has a civic center.

Compton City Hall - King Memorial Brad Nixon (640x461)

Designed by the architect Harold L. Williams, the Compton City Hall, Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse and Compton Public Library border a large paved plaza. City Hall is above. Below, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the courthouse.

Compton Civic Plaza MLK Memorial hor Brad Nixon (640x480)

The plaza was completed in 1977. The structure in the center is a memorial to Dr. King, designed by artist Gerald Gladstone in collaboration with Williams.

During several decades, beginning in the 1950s, Compton became predominately populated by African-Americans. In recent decades, the population has shifted and Compton now has a majority of residents of Hispanic heritage, but at the time the Plaza debuted, it was still a primarily African-American community. Hence, the identification with Dr. King was particularly strong.

Compton City Hall is one of the prolific Williams’ most lauded designs, wrapped in glass walls fronted by vertical panels that serve as solar blocks.

Compton City Hall Brad Nixon (640x478)

Those white concrete fins stand in a reflecting pool, but California’s drought has forced the city to drain the pool.

Compton City Hall Brad Nixon 5458 (640x480)

The courthouse, part of the extensive L.A. County Superior Court system, has aged well, and still looks sleek, despite being 40 years old.

Compton Courthouse Brad Nixon 3 (478x640)

If you go to Compton, take time to walk around the courthouse exterior. Inside each of the four corners is a mosaic, each about 10 feet tall, representing “The Judge,” “The Juror,” and two allegories: “Building the Monument to Justice” and “Fusion of the Races” (click on images to enlarge):

Here are some details (click images to enlarge):

They’re the work of Armando Campero. There are larger murals by Mr. Campero in the lobby of the building.

The plaza is impressive, and Mr. Williams’ work is holding its own. The memorial to Dr. King is attractive and does cause one to pause as we near a watershed moment in the U.S. that may test our collective will to live by the principles enshrined in our Constitution, as Dr. King encouraged us.

On the opposite side of the tall courthouse, there’s a grass lawn with a small public stage that has another recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK quote Brad Nixon (640x404)

The quotation is one I hope we all can live by as we go forward together:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.”

Getting there

Compton (lower right corner of the map) is due south of downtown Los Angeles.

Compton CA map marked Google (640x564)

The Compton Civic Plaza is located at 205 S. Willowbrook Dr., Compton, CA 90220. Several freeways provide automobile access, and the Metro Blue Line light rail Compton Station is 500 feet north of the plaza.

Thanks to the work of regular reader/commenter, Feisty Froggy, who identified the mosaic artist, Armando Campero. Campero studied with Diego Rivera and has a large body of extant work. The lobby of the Compton courthouse features large mosaic murals by Mr. Campero (one is 5′ x 60′) on the theme of the history of Law. I did not include them in this post nor photograph them. I was at the courthouse for jury duty, without permission to photograph in the lobby. As you know, public buildings like courthouses are subject to security regulations, including scanning by metal detectors, and photography requires permission. I resolve to write a followup post at some point featuring these works. You can see two of the interior murals at

Thank you, Feisty Froggy, and your blog, Dewey Hop, at the Fulton County Indiana Public Library. A demonstration of the skills of library experts in action.

Watts (map, red circle), the location of Watts Towers, about which I wrote HERE, is immediately north of Compton.

Harold L. Williams, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, my alma mater. He apprenticed with noted Los Angeles architect Paul R. Williams (no relation), before establishing his own firm.

© Brad Nixon 2017

Some of the photographs in this post and select images from Under Western Skies are available on Click on linked photos or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky image portfolio.


  1. Very nice post which I enjoyed reading.

    On first search I couldn’t find Campeso either, however, I did discover that he (or she) was probably Cuban.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s possible that the artist’s name is Campero. If so, check this out If Armando-Campero is your guy, then I was wrong about him being Cuban. Probably Mexican in this case.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tremendous work, thank you. I have a lot to say in response, but I’ll follow up in a bit. Revising the post now. Muchas gracias.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Da nada! Thank you for the shout out.


    • That’s excellent research. I’ve revised the post to include the basic info. I did see those interior murals, but, as I explain in the post, I didn’t photograph them because it’s a secure area and using a camera requires permission. I greatly appreciate your contribution!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. Just another day at the Fulton County Public Library!


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