LAWRENCE EUGENE HORNER SR., FORMER MAYOR OF THOUSAND OAKS, CA
It is fitting to close out Black History Month with a tribute to the late Lawrence E. Horner Sr., who was born on February 28, 1930. Mr. Horner, who died July 14, 2021, broke history when he became the first Black Mayor of Thousand Oaks, Ca. at a time when in California, there was a lack of representation of elected officials who were people of color.
Mr. Horner, who had also served as an executive at such companies as Litton Industries and Northrup, believed in the achievements and goals of such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Adam Clayton Powell Jr and instilled the principals outlined in the iconic speech, “I Have A Dream,” in his children and his employees and his mentees.
His oldest daughter, Cynthia Horner, Publisher of Right On! Digital, will never forget his advocacy for learning. As such, he taught her to read at age three and made every effort to insure that she excelled in school and was able to attend the prestigious Pepperdine University in Malibu, Ca. His wife Betty and children Larry Jr. and Kymberly, vividly recall the stories he told his family about segregation and the lack of diversity and opportunities in the 30s through 60s in United States history. One such poiginant tale they remembered him telling was the lack of sensitivity shown to Negro soldiers who were recruited to potentially fight in the Korean War. These soldiers were denied such courtesies as sitting where they liked in bus depots, as some states had policies in place denying people of color being able to sit comfortably in the available seats. Angered by such practices, Mr. Horner said he was willing to face jail time if he and his buddies could not have a seat. Needless to say, his outspoken and eloquent manner won over the people, and not only were he and his friends allowed to sit down but they were also offered refreshments on subsequent visits.
Another important story that his children recall was the “Green Book” he carried when traveling, as the book would give people of color a guide to hospitality and vital transit information when driving through the United States.
Furthermore, Mr. Horner was raised during a time when Negroes had difficulty obtaining housing in the communities of their choosing. They were told, “Negroes don’t live there.” Eventually, he was in a position to move his family to an area of his choosing at a time when the minority population of Thousand Oaks was nearly non-existent.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS ACHIEVEMENTS OF LAWRENCE HORNER
ESTEEMED MEMBER, ALPHA PHI ALPHA FRATERNITY, INC.
The legacy of Lawrence E. Horner Sr. will leave an indelible imprint on the lives of his family members and the community at large. From a young toddler who enjoyed the intricacies of watchmaking, news programs, ice cream, and spending time with his family, Lawrence Horner grew to be a great man who will never be forgotten. He was a firm believer in life, liberty, and opportunity for all and will forever be known as having ascended to the class of greatness.
The former Thousand Oaks, CA Mayor Lawrence E. Horner Sr died on July 14, 2021, after a brief illness at the age of 91. Mr. Horner, who has resided in the Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village area since 1968, was married to his lifelong sweetheart, Betty Ruth Thurman, for 67 years.
Born on February 28, 1930, to parents John Henry Horner and Anna Marie Horner attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, where he grew up during a time when people of color experienced unspeakable racial injustices. However, these circumstances did not deter him from pursuing his life dreams as he grew up believing that a person should be judged by character rather than color, the mantra by which he lived for the rest of his life.
Upon graduation from high school, he attended Indiana University in Bloomington, IN., where he received a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the Army, where his services were utilized to improve literacy for soldiers stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, during the Korean War Conflict.
After returning to the United States, he began working at the Finance Center in Bloomington, Indiana, where he met and married Betty Ruth Thurman. He completed his Master’s Degree while raising his eldest daughter Cynthia on the college campus of Indiana University, Bloomington.
Mr. Horner and his family then moved to Toledo, OH, where their son Lawrence Jr. was born. They soon relocated to California, where Mr. Horner was hired by Lockheed Industries as a design engineer. His youngest of three children, Kymberly Rose, was born, completing the family trio of siblings.
In a quest to improve the quality of life for his family, Mr. Horner moved the family to the culturally diverse area of Thousand Oaks, where his interest in public service began to take shape.
Developing a passion for his community coupled with his lifelong interest in sports, he worked with the neighborhood youth interested in Little League. He later became President of the Westlake Athletic Association for two years, in 1972 and 1973, working concurrently with the Foxmoor Homeowners Association.
He took over the reins of the Westlake Village Joint Board of Homeowners, serving as President in 1973 and 1974, which kindled his desire to move into the mainstream of Thousand Oaks politics.
Eventually, he set his sights on the bigger picture and decided to campaign for City Council. At the urging of his daughter Cynthia who had become a young journalist for several local newspapers, as well as numerous colleagues and neighbors, he set about building an intergenerational grassroots campaign, branded under the slogan, “I’m in Horner’s Corner.” He made history by becoming the first person from Westlake Village to be elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council and the first African-American elected official in Ventura County.
During his 16 and a half stint on the Thousand Oaks City Council, he was elected Mayor four times. He utilized his eloquent voice and leadership skills to secure such initiatives as the launch of the Oaks Mall, a teen center, a senior citizen center, two libraries, and parks. He served as the chairman of the board of the Arts Council, and in 1975, assisted in getting the Janss House as the first Cultural Center in the Conejo Valley.
A gifted speaker and outstanding leader, Mr. Horner continued to uplift the community while working as an executive in the aerospace industry.
He served on the Board of Advisors for Independence Bank, has been a member of the Conejo Future Foundation, and held membership in the Alliance of the Arts and the Conejo Valley Historical Society.
Following his stint on the City Council, he was appointed to positions on the Planning Commission and various other related areas concurrent to working as an executive at Northrop Industries, where he served as a Vice-President/Manager. Upon his retirement in the aeronautics field, he continued fueling his interest in the political landscape as an aide to Congressman Brad Sherman. He often interfaced with other highly influential elected officials, including President Bill Clinton.
In addition, Mr. Horner continued to lead a fight for diversity in the workplace and within local government.
Mr. Horner, the son of the late John Henry and Anna Marie Horner, was the eldest of seven children: Joan Orton, Rosalind Horner (deceased), Patricia Renfro (deceased), Robert Horner (deceased), John Horner (deceased), and Michael Horner.
Mr. Horner’s influence on his family is unparalleled and is a testament to the statement, “an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” His daughter Cynthia is an iconic media personality and the publisher of Right On! Magazine. His daughter Kymberly is the current Executive Director of the Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative in Portland, Oregon, and his son Lawrence followed in his footsteps as an electronics engineer. His wife Betty is the past President of the Westlake Women’s Club and has served the greater Thousand Oaks area for several decades as the unofficial First Lady of Thousand Oaks. Mr. Horner, fondly called “Uncle Buddy” by family members, inspired his extended family to achieve excellence in numerous managerial positions. Two of his great-nephews, Lawrence Cotton and Bud Wilson, were named in his honor.
Lawrence E. Horner was a proud 71-year member of the illustrious Black Greek organization Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He held membership in the chapter based in Camarillo, Ca.
Happy Heavenly birthday from your beloved Right On! Media Holdings Cynthia, Kymberly and Derrick Horner, and Ken Harris aka KENTHEPHOTOGRAPHER, Larry Horner Jr. and Brian Harris.