Nate Holden

Nate Holden

Nate Holden (born June 1929) is a Los Angeles County politician who served four years in the California State Senate and 16 years on the Los Angeles City Council.



Upbringing, education and family

Holden was born in June 1929 in Macon, Georgia, the son of a railroad brakeman in the Central of Georgia yards. He moved with his mother and brothers to a cold-water flat in Elizabeth, New Jersey, when he was 10; he quit high school at age 16, when, although he was under age, he enlisted in the Army, where he became a military policeman. Back home, he earned a high school diploma in night school and later studied design and engineering in the evenings at West Coast University. He worked for Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, then moved to California in 1955 and worked as an aerospace engineer.[1][2] He has two sons, Chris and Reginald.[3][4]

Description and personality

Holden was an amateur boxer as a teenager, weighing only 167 pounds. At age 59, he was a "tall, gray-haired dignified-looking man in a nicely conservative suit."[2] Holden completed the Los Angeles Marathon in 1990 and 1991, when he was in his sixties.[4]

He had two sides to his personality, Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Boyarsky wrote in 1989 — "The Nice Nate" and "The Mean Nate." On one hand, Holden was "a gentle, considerate, compassionate person much of the time." On the other hand, Boyarsky wrote, Holden is marked by a "hostile toughness . . . when he discusses the way black leaders refused to back him in unsuccessful races and in his election to the council." Fellow councilman John Ferraro said of Holden, "He is gruff and he is rough, but he has a big heart."[2]

Within just a few months after his election to the Los Angeles City Council in 1987, Holden stirred resentment from fellow council members and City Hall workers. Los Angeles Times reporter Victor Merina wrote that Holden's style was described as "abrasive and contentious, overbearing and pompous. He is viewed, by some, as confrontational at best, and rude and bullying at worst." Councilwoman Joy Picus said, "I am appalled at the way he treats city employees. He already is legendary at City Hall." Holden told the reporter: "I'm not running any nursery school. I ask tough questions of bureaucrats."[5]

Early political career

Holden said he decided to enter politics at the age of six in Georgia when he heard a candidate on the radio vow to "keep the niggers down."[4] In California, he became active in Democratic politics; he was a member of the "steering committee for the California Democratic Council's peace delegation" and an officer of the Alta Loma Democratic Club. Holden made his first run for public office in 1968, when he was an unsuccessful candidate in California's 26th congressional district, which at the time included Beverly Hills, part of Culver City, most of Venice and some of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. He became president of the CDC in 1970 and that year made two more runs for Congress.[2][6]

State Senate

Holden began his service as a state senator in 1974, but gave up his office after four years to campaign unsuccessfully for the Congressional seat ultimately won by Julian C. Dixon.[2]

City Council


1987: Holden took a leave from his job as assistant chief deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn to run against Homer Broome Jr. for the 10th District seat that had been vacated by the resignation of Dave Cunningham. Holden won by a 2–1 margin, even though Broome had been endorsed by Mayor Tom Bradley. Another candidate was Esther M. Lofton, who received fewer than 100 votes.[7][8]

1989: Holden took on Mayor Bradley directly when he entered the race for mayor. He angered some of his constituents during the campaign when he supported the proposed breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District.[4] It was noted just before the election that Bradley's campaign fund vastly surpassed Holden's — $1,085,861 to $67,252. But Holden gained national prominence by using other funds to pay $300 for each assault rifle surrendered to the police.[9] Bradley received 52 percent of vote to win in the April primary.[10]

1991: Lofton, 60, a former schoolteacher "with no political base," challenged Holden again, stating she would not accept campaign contributions.[8][11] When the votes were counted, Lofton had won an "astounding 28%," the Los Angeles Times remarked editorially, ascribing the large percentage to Holden's "hands-off policy regarding Police Chief Daryl Gates.[12]

1995: Holden was challenged in the April primary by Deputy District Attorney Kevin A. Ross and by Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate J. Stanley (Stan) Sanders. In the campaign Korean-American business owners contributed more than a third of Holden's campaign funds, lauding the councilman's help "in moving them through the city bureaucracy"; Sanders and Holden, who claimed the election would be his last one, "took shots at the other's integrity and character."[4][13] In the final election against Sanders in June, Holden received 54% of the vote and was elected.[14]

1999: Holden did run again, however, receiving 49.37% of the primary votes against Madison Shockley, who had 20.9%, and Scott Suh and Marsha Brown, each with about 15%.[15] In a "bitterly personal" June campaign, won by Holden, the Times wrote,

Shockley blamed Holden for the existence of bleak storefronts, filthy sidewalks and lack of new development along the district's thoroughfares, which include Jefferson, Washington, Pico and Adams boulevards. . . . Holden's campaign portrayed the incumbent as a master of constituent services, taking credit for fixed sidewalks, filled potholes and new libraries in residential neighborhoods.[16]

Holden's campaign literature claimed that Mayor Bradley, a longtime Holden opponent who had been rendered speechless in the hospital after two strokes, had endorsed Holden before he died. He did this, Holden later told the LA Weekly newspaper, by nodding his head, "like a thumbs up."[17]

2001: After the death of Rep. Julian Dixon in 2001, Holden was one of 16 candidates in a first-past-the-post election to succeed him. He came in third with 16.7% of the vote, to Diane Watson's 32.9% and Kevin Murray's 26.4%.[18]

Legal problems


In November 1995, Holden. 66. was cleared by Superior Court Judge Raymond D. Mereles of civil charges by a former office worker, Marlee E. Beyda, 31, that he had engaged in sexual harassment against her both in his office and in visits she made to his Marina del Rey apartment. Similar claims brought by former aide Carla Cavalier were dismissed the next month by Judge Byron McMillan, but they were reinstated by an appeals court, and the City Council agreed in January 2000 to pay Cavalier $175,000 in damages. Another woman, Connie Collins, also filed a claim in 1992 accusing Holden of sexual harassment, but she never pursued a lawsuit.[19][20] The city paid $1.3 million in Holden's legal bills because the city attorney's office could not defend him due to a conflict of interest.[21][22]


The city councilman was sued for defamation in 1999 by Los Angeles County sheriff's lieutenant (later captain) Ronnie Williams. The officer claimed Holden and his son Chris, a Pasadena City Council member had falsely accused Williams of soliciting bribes from the pair. Williams dropped the suit three months later and agreed to share the Holdens' court costs.[23]

Due process

Holden and the city of Los Angeles were sued in 2002 by Ronald Mayberry, a former Holden aide, who claimed that, while being paid by the city, he was required to work on Holden's 1999 campaign and on the campaign of Holden's son, Chris, who was running for mayor of Pasadena. He said he was also forced to work on Holden's 2001 Congressional campaign. Mayberry, a diabetic, claimed Holden violated his federal rights to due process and state disability laws by firing him without justification.[24]


The city's Ethics Commission ruled in 2002 that Holden had committed 31 violations of campaign-finance laws in 1999 by accepting donations totaling $5,150 in excess of what was allowed and fined him and his campaign manager $6,500.[25][26]

Other activities

  • It was reported in September 1992 that Holden, 64, had been dividing his time for some 18 months between his home in Southwest Los Angeles and a condominium in Marina del Rey — outside the city limits — because of anonymous death threats he had received after the police beating of motorist Rodney King. Holden had voted with nine other council members in 1991 to reinstate Police Chief Daryl Gates, suspended by the Police Commission after the King affair. He said he did so "to ensure due process for the chief and to settle a lawsuit."[27][4]
  • In October 1992, over Holden's protests, the council voted 12-1 to move the 23-acre Santa Barbara Plaza — encompassing the largest concentration of black-owned businesses in the city — from his district to that of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Holden threatened to sue, calling it "nothing but a blatant political maneuver."[28]
2002 Lincoln Navigator
  • In January 2000, the Times reported that Holden had requisitioned for himself a "$45,223 super-deluxe sport utility vehicle at public expense" — a 2000 Lincoln Navigator — the most expensive car ever asked by a City Council member, who were entitled to drive city-owned automobiles. The "public will also foot the fuel bill for the councilman's notorious gas-guzzler," wrote reporter Beth Shuster. "It's more functional," said Holden, who wanted the big car to drive staff members and others around the district.[29]
  • Holden aroused controversy in July 2001 when he decided to appoint outgoing council members Mike Hernandez and Rudy Svorinich as part of his staff at a fee of about $1,900 each every two weeks "until they find new jobs."[30]
  • In May 2002 it was reported that Holden, who had campaigned against inner-city liquor businesses after the 1992 Rodney King riots, nevertheless had fostered the opening of dozens of bars and nightclubs in Koreatown, which turned the district into "one of the city's busiest bar zones." It was said that many of the bars were "backed by his campaign contributors or represented by lobbyists with close ties to him." Holden replied that he was not influenced by campaign donations or any relationships with liquor or nightclub interests.[31]


1987: Forbidding the sale or manufacture of realistic toy guns. Bill passed.[32]

1990: Requiring buyers of Rolex watches to register the serial number with police, to make it difficult for crooks to sell them. Introduced in the wake of a rash of Rolex thefts of about one a day, with some owners killed.[33]

1999: Requiring cable companies to remove sneakers tied together and left dangling from overhead lines. Holden said they were "menacing signals of gang territory and drug sales." Police officials said they were just pranks. Bill passed.[34]


The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center at 4718 West Washington Boulevard is named in his honor.


  1. ^ Victor Merina, "Favored Holden Unfazed," Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1987, pages D-1 and D-3 Library card required
  2. ^ a b c d e Bill Boyarsky, "Takes On Bradley in Mayoral Race," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1989, page 1 Library card required
  3. ^ Official website
  4. ^ a b c d e f Peter Y. Hong, "Sparks Fly," Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1995
  5. ^ "Nate Holden Does Things His Way — Stirs Resentment," August 31, 1987
  6. ^ "24 Candidates Seek Four Congress Posts," March 31, 1968, page WS-6 Library card required
  7. ^ Frank Clifford and Victor Merina, Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1987, pages B-1 and B-3 Library card required
  8. ^ a b James Rainey, "Ferraro and Holden Appear to Be Facing Easy Reelection," Los Angeles Times, February 17, 1991, page 5 Library card required
  9. ^ Bill Boyarsky, "Donations to Holden Dry Up in Mayor's Race," Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1989
  10. ^ Richard Simon, "The Elections," Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1989
  11. ^ Jane Fritsch, "Holden Stages Low-Key Race for Reelection," Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1991, page 1
  12. ^ "Results That Should Scare Somebody," April 11, 1991, page 6 Library card required
  13. ^ John Schwada and Hugo Martin, "Voters Approving Mayor's Bid for City Hall Reforms," Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1995
  14. ^ Peter Y. Hong, "Holden Says He'll Mend Fences With Constituents," Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1995
  15. ^ Peter Y. Hong and Louis Sahagun, "Holden Forced Into Runoff," Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1999
  16. ^ Peter Hong and Matea Gold, "Holden Holds Off Challenge," Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1999
  17. ^ Eric Pape, LA Weekly, April 7, 1999
  18. ^ Election returns
  19. ^ Jodi Wilgoren, "Holden Is Exonerated in Harassment Case," Los Angeles Times, November 28, 1995
  20. ^ Jean Merl, "3rd Holden Case Voided by Judge," Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1995
  21. ^ "Just What Did We Pay For?" Los Angeles Times, February 27, 1966
  22. ^ "Settlement Approved in Suit Against Holden," Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2000
  23. ^ Ann W. O'Neill, "Sheriff's Captain Drops Holden Defamation Suit," Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1999
  24. ^ David Rosenzweig, "Former Aide Sues Holden," Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2002 The outcome of the case was not reported.
  25. ^ Kenneth Reich, "Holden to Pay $6,500 for Ethics Violations," Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2002
  26. ^ "Court Upholds Ethics Ruling Against Holden," Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2003
  27. ^ "Citing Threats, Holden Has 2nd Home Out of the City," Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1992, page 1
  28. ^ James Rainey and Greg Krikorian, "Beaten to the Draw, Holden Vows a Fight," Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1992, page 1
  29. ^ January 15, 2000
  30. ^ Tina Daunt, "Holden Defends Hiring of Colleagues," Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2001
  31. ^ Peter Y. Hong, "Councilman Cleared Way for Koreatown Nightspots," Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2002
  32. ^ Frederick M. Muir, "L.A. Bans Realistic Toy Guns," Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1987
  33. ^ Frederick M. Muir, "Holden Seeks Registration of Rolex Watches," Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1990
  34. ^ "Council Steps Boldly Into Sneakers Issue," Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1999

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
David Cunningham
Los Angeles City Council
10th District

Succeeded by
Martin Ludlow
California Senate
Preceded by
Lawrence E. Walsh
California State Senator
30th district
Succeeded by
Diane Watson

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