Special to the Daily World
Rodney King “turned his scars into stars and showed the nation a better way,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said Saturday, June 30, during memorial services in Los Angeles for King.
A private memorial was held for family, close friends and invited guests before the 2 p.m. funeral service at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. King’s brother Paul, a minister in their Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, was the only speaker; he urged others to examine their own lives and use them for good.
King was buried in Los Angeles. At a news conference before the funeral, Sharpton paid tribute to him. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was expected to attend but did not appear at the services.
“Rodney King was a symbol of civil rights and he represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time,” the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network said in a statement prior to the funeral. “It was his beating that made America focus on the presence of profiling and police misconduct.
“I recently spent time with him on the release of his new book just a couple of months ago and he did my radio and TV show. Through all that he had gone through with his beating and his personal demons he was never one to not call for reconciliation and for people to overcome and forgive. History will record that it was Rodney King’s beating and his actions that made America deal with the excessive misconduct of law enforcement,” Sharpton said.
Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was caught on camera and sparked riots after the acquittal of the four officers involved, was found dead in his swimming pool Sunday, authorities and his fiancee said. He was 47.
Police in Rialto, Calif., received a 911 call Sunday, June 17, from King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, about 5:25 a.m., said Capt. Randy De Anda. Responding officers found King at the bottom of the pool, removed him and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, police said.
There were no preliminary signs of foul play, De Anda said, and no obvious injuries on King’s body. Police investigation said there was no foul play and King’s body was autopsied.
Kelly — who was a juror in King’s lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in 1994 — told police King was an “avid swimmer,” but that she was not, De Anda said. She reported the two had just had a conversation and she went inside, but came back out after hearing a splash and saw him at the bottom of the pool.
King’s beating after a high-speed car chase and its aftermath forever changed Los Angeles, its police department and the dialogue on race in America.
“I am saddened by the death of Rodney King,” said Bernard Parks, a Los Angeles city councilman who served as LAPD chief from 1997 to 2002. “Although his beating will forever be thought of as one of the ugliest moments in the history of the city of Los Angeles and its police department, the victimization of Mr. King and the circumstances that followed created an atmosphere that allowed LAPD and the city to make historic disciplinary and community-based reforms that have made for a better police department and a better city as a whole.”
The service and dedication ceremony for King was held at 2 p.m. at the Forest Lawn Hall of Liberty in Hollywood Hills, according to a statement from the family. King’s three daughters established the Rodney Glen King Memorial Fund through Bank of America in LA County.
King was awarded a $3.8-million settlement following the police beating and the riots, but the money and fame brought him little solace. He had some run-ins with the law and as of April he said he was broke. He had children and he had grandchildren that he had to help support, and when you start dwindling down that $3 million, it goes quickly, according to reports.