In 1905, a group of businessmen pooled their resources to form the Inglewood Park Cemetery Association. At that time, the Centinela Valley was a sparsely settled area of farms and small homes. Funeral processions came from Los Angeles on horse-drawn flat carts. Later, with the spread of the railroads, mourners arrived at the cemetery in specially designed funeral cars like the Descano. The first interment was made on July 20, 1906. There were a total of 32 interments during the first year, a number which was to increase dramatically over the years.
Today, Inglewood Park Cemetery assists more families than any other cemetery in the vicinity. In fact, eleven members of the famed black World War II fighter pilots, Tuskegee Airmen, are buried there. The first, Saint Twine, died January 21, 1984. Most recently, Clarence Huntley, who passed away January 5, 2015, was laid to rest. Isham Burns, Claude Davis, Celestus King, William Melton, Lawrence Miller, Robert Porter, Roger Terry, Vincent Williams and Willard Woods are among the other Airmen buried in Inglewood.
Other notable African Americans buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery include:
Gertrude Baines, world’s oldest person of African American descent (Guinness World Records, 2009); Ricky Bell, professional football player; Mayor Tom Bradley, first African American mayor and city council member in Los Angeles; Rev. James Cleveland, gospel musician; Johnnie Cochran, high profile attorney; Ella Fitzgerald, renowned jazz singer/recording artist; Robin Harris, comedian; Dr. Billy Ingram, founder/pastor of Maranatha Community Church; “Billy” Preston, soul musician; Ray Charles, singer, musician and conductor, and “Sugar” Ray Robinson, heavyweight boxing champion.
Known for its pristine lawns and beautiful structures, the park leads the way among historic sites in Inglewood. More than a place to bury loved ones, the park’s mausoleums are Southern California treasures. Its Mausoleum of the Golden West, built during the 1930s through the 1960s, boast beautiful stained glass representations of early California. Other historic structures on the property include the Manchester Garden Mausoleum and the Sunset Mission Mausoleum. The newest projects, Garden of Chimes and Grandview, are both under construction. Once completed, there will be more available mausoleum space, cremation columbaria, family estates, garden mausoleum and lawn crypts.
With these and other projects and an Endowment Care Fund in excess of $25 million, Inglewood Park Cemetery will be the “burial place of kings” for years to come.