Friday, May 17, 2002
Former Compton Municipal Court Judge, Legislator Ralph Dills Dies
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Ralph Dills, a former Compton Municipal Court judge who was best known for his service in the state Legislature, died yesterday. He was 92.
Dills was the state’s second longest-serving lawmaker and one of two California legislators to protest the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
Dills was a professional saxophone player and a teacher when he was elected to the state Assembly in 1938, representing the Gardena area as a New Deal Democrat. Legislation he authored greatly expanded the number of courts and courthouses in Los Angeles County, especially in Compton and the communities of the southeast part of the county.
He also authored bills creating Long Beach State College, now California State University at Long Beach, and El Camino College.
Dills earned his law degree from Loyola University School of Law and became a State Bar member in 1945, and left the Legislature in 1949 to become a judge in Compton.
He served on the bench for 18 years, then left in 1966 to rejoin the Legislature, this time as a state senator, and left in 1998 only because he was forced out by the term limits law. His last campaign slogan was “Too old to quit.”
“He would say he had a wonderful life,” his son, Greg Dills, said.
“With his background as a teacher, he had a very, very large place in his heart for education. He never forgot those roots,” said Steve Hardy, staff director for the Governmental Organization Committee.
For taking a stand against President Roosevelt’s internment order, Dills and the late Sen. Jack Shelley, were targeted for expulsion, Hardy said. That effort failed and Dills was honored by the Legislature last year for his protest.
He said then that taking the stance against internment wasn’t a difficult decision.
He was also known at the Capitol as one of the Dills Brothers—his brother Clayton Dills served in the Assembly from 1943 to 1966, and another brother, Curly Dills, worked as an elevator operator. All played musical instruments and often played together in jazz bands, Hardy said.
Reapportionment shifted Dill’s district in the 1990s, resulting in Gardena, his home base, being attached to another district. To win over voters in a new district, his last campaign featured billboards with a photograph of Dills playing in his band and the slogan “too old to quit,” said Richie Ross, Dills’ campaign manager.
Ross said the photograph of Dills blowing a saxophone gave the campaign the edge it needed. “We ran him as B.B. King,” Ross said.
Dills was born in Rosston, Texas in 1910, moving to California when he was 15 years old.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth. He is survived by three children.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company