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John Ferraro, Long-Time Los Angeles City Council President, Dies.

Long-time Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro, a former Southern California football star who went on to become the dean of Los Angeles politics, died April 17 after a nearly two-year battle with cancer. He was 76.

One of the city's most influential politicians for decades, Ferraro was in the midst of his 35th year on the council.

He died at Saint John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, shortly after receiving last rites, his spokeswoman Gayle Johnson said. Ferraro disclosed 14 months ago that he had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.

"I know of no one who represents the heart and soul of Los Angeles more than John Ferraro did," Mayor Richard Riordan said. "He was a big man, he was a strong man, but he was a loving man, a person who put Los Angeles first and his own agendas last."

Ferraro was appointed to the City Council in 1966 upon the death of Councilman Harold Henry and went on to win election to nine terms on his own.

He was also active in the National League of Cities. Ferraro served on the NLC Board of Directors in 1996 and 1997 and then on the NLC Advisory Council. Before joining the Board, Ferraro served for many years on the Transportation and Communications Steering Committee. He was instrumental in bringing the 1999 Congress of Cities to Los Angeles and led the city's host committee for the event. Ferraro also served as president of the California League of Cities in 1999.

The Los Angeles native first gained fame at the University of Southern California in the 1940s, where he was an all-American at tackle on Trojan football teams that made it to three Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1974, the USC Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1996.

After earning a business degree from USC he opened an insurance brokerage in Los Angeles.

Long considered one of the city's most powerful politicians, Ferraro was credited with bringing improvements to the Los Angeles Zoo, bringing the new Staples Center arena to a revitalized downtown, and helping bring the 1984 Olympics and 2000 Democratic National Convention to the city. The downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power bears his

In addition to being one of the council's most influential members, the 6-foot4-inch, 240-pound Ferraro was also one of its most physically imposing.

Often uncomfortable in the public spotlight, however, he was most successful working behind the scenes. He was widely credited with wooing frustrated developers back to the Staples Center project, a centerpiece of downtown redevelopment that opened in 1999, and he was known among fellow council members as a voice of reason and humor.

"John Ferraro possessed the two indispensable qualities for a public official: common sense and character," said Warren Christopher, the former U.S. secretary of state and a one-time classmate of Ferraro.

Among the honors bestowed upon him, Pope John Paul II named Ferraro Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great in 1998 in recognition of his four decades of public service.

"He was a man who possessed a wonderful vision both of what the city of Los Angeles is, and has the potential to become," said Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Catholic Church's Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Ferraro is survived by a son, Luckey, and two sisters and a brother. His wife, Margaret, died last year.
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Title Annotation:Los Angeles, California
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Apr 23, 2001
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