Charles Navarro

Charles Navarro
in 1951

Charles Navarro (ca. 1904–2005), born Charles Navarro Guarino, was a Los Angeles, California, City Council member between 1951 and 1961 and city controller from 1961 to 1977.


Navarro was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents.[1] [2] He was a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who moved to Los Angeles when he was 19 to be a professional musician. He worked for Paramount and Universal Studios. He also owned an apartment building on San Marino Street in Los Angeles. Navarro was married to Rose Northy for 70 years, then married Seda Stevens.

Navarro retired in 1977 and spent the last 28 years of his life overseeing his investments and enjoying "dining at his favorite Westside steakhouses. . . . At 100-plus he was walking without a cane, driving his Cadillac and going to church every Sunday."[3] He died in his sleep at the age of 101 on September 7, 2005, and was survived by his wife and a stepson, Armen Haig Stevens.[3][4][5]


Political career

City Council

See also Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1951 and after.

At the beginning of 1951, four candidates had begun their campaigns for election to Los Angeles's 10th District seat on the City Council — the incumbent, G. Vernon Bennett, as well as Assemblyman Vernon Kilpatrick, 1332 Hope Street; Sam B. Whitworth, 2106 Wilmot Street; Charles Downs, 1607 Venice Blvd.; and Navarro, 2700 San Marino Street.[6] Downs was a former City Council member who had lost his seat and went to prison in 1925 on a corruption charge. The district was "in the south-central section of the city," bounded by Wilshire and Jefferson boulevards and La Brea Avenue and Main Street.[7][8]

The Los Angeles Times, which favored Navarro's election, wrote of him:

In a district which has been a favorite haunt for left-wingers for some considerable time, Navarro comes right out and says he's downright against all kinds of bureaucracy, Socialism or any other kind of ism. . . . Although the Council job is supposedly nonpartisan, he's up against two old-line, left-wing Democrats, G. Vernon Bennett, the incumbent, and Assemblyman Vernon Kilpatrick, who's willing to ditch his State post for a city job if he can get it. Bennett, 16 years in the Council, is nearing 70 and during recent months was in trouble with the police. He appears to be on the way out.[1]

The April primary was seen as a dirty one: "Three of the candidates were accused of having police records, one of being an ex-convict. Another was linked with activities of the Communist Party."[9] Navarro came in second, with 5,077 votes to 5,301 for Kilpatrick, 3,835 for Bennett, 2,250 for Hubbard and 1,423 for Downs.[10] Bennett promptly sued for Navarro's disqualification on the grounds that he had not listed his birth name on the ballot. Navarro answered that he had dropped his last name, Guarino, "because the first two were better suited to his work as a professional musician."[11] A Superior Court judge dismissed Bennett's claim.[12] Navarro won the May election, 9,001 votes to Kilpatrick's 7,321.[13]

In the 1953 election, Navarro had four opponents: "John A. Somerville, Negro dentist and a member of the Municipal Police Commission; Courtland G. Mitchell, Negro real estate man; Charles Downs, contractor, and Ben F. Hayes, insurance investigator."[7] Navarro won with 14,892 votes over Somerville, 8,316; Hayes, 2,781; Downs, 1,385, and Mitchell, 901.[14]

The 1955 election in the 10th District was the closest ever seen in Los Angeles, not being decided until a count of absentee ballots. The final returns were 11,336 for Navarro, the victor, 6,236 for African-American businessman George L. Thomas; 3,086 for African-American newspaper publisher Louis Lomax; 1,555 for automobile dealer Milton Mackaig; and 477 for pet shop proprietor Sam B. Whitworth.[15][16][17]

City controller

Navarro announced in December 1960 his determination to unseat 70-year-old Dan O. Hoye, who had been city controller for 24 years and who said that his ambition was to equal the 28-year record of his predecessor in office, John Myers.[18] Navarro, chairman of the City Council's finance committee, was endorsed by the president of the Merchants and Manufacturers Association[19] and the Los Angeles Times. [20] Navarro won the election, 187,122 votes against 133,569 for Hoye, 67,318 for certified public accountant Harry C. Fischer and 25.683 for management consultant Cecil R. Kay.[21][22]

The city controller was unopposed in the next two elections: He received 470,324 votes in 1965 and 379,971 in 1969.[23][24] He won the 1973 election, with 300,511 votes against 56,924 for Democratic businessman David Gold. Other 1973 candidates were Hoag, 34,428 votes; Day, 27,957; Blount, 26,458; Taylor, 17,086, and Rees, 11,667.[25][26]

Navarro testified twice before City Council committees in opposition to proposals to make the city controller an appointive office rather than elective — in 1969 and in 1977.[27][28]

He testified also in the 1975 trial of a woman who was charged with taking part in a "multimillion dollar plan to defraud the Los Angeles municipal treasury by cashing stolen city checks." He said his signature had been forged. The same year he persuaded the City Council to purchase two check-writing machines that "would make forging a controller's signature virtually impossible."[29][30]

Navarro left office in 1977.[3]


  • "What I saw of Socialism and Communism in the rest of the world made me want to pitch in and stop it here."[1]
  • "I have never been arrested and am not a member of, or supported by, the Communist Party."[31]
  • "The job [of city controller] is paying the bills, making sure everybody gets paid, and making sure the city is in sound financial shape. Bookkeeping, bookkeeping and more bookkeeping."[3]


Access to some Los Angeles Times links may require the use of a library card.

  1. ^ a b c "Navarro Outlines Platform for Race," Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1951, page A-1
  2. ^ Dorothy Townsend, "Councilman Counts Nation's Blessings," Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1955
  3. ^ a b c d Elaine Woo, "Charles Navarro, 101; Former L.A. City Councilman and Controller," Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2005
  4. ^ "Six Indicted as Rent Regulation Violators," Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1946, page 1
  5. ^ "Navarro Elated, but Will Miss Council Hassles," Los Angeles Times, June 2, 1961, page 6
  6. ^ "27 Toss Hats Into City Council Ring," Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1951, page 2
  7. ^ a b "Hot Contests Mark City Council Races," Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1953, page 2
  8. ^ "Council Contests in Seven Districts," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1955, page 3
  9. ^ "Large Sum Spent in Primary Race," Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1951, page 37
  10. ^ "Complete Primary, Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1951, page 9
  11. ^ "Bennett's Charge Denied by Nominee," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1951, page A-3
  12. ^ "Court Dismisses Suit of Councilman Bennett," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1951, page 20
  13. ^ "Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1951, page 1
  14. ^ "Complete Returns in City Primary," Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1953, page 2
  15. ^ "Unusual Setup for Council's Contests," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1955, page 3
  16. ^ "Absentee Ballots Give Navarro Council Victory," Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1955, page 1
  17. ^ "Complete Returns in City Primary Election," Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1955, page 20
  18. ^ Carlton Williams, "Navarro Enters Race for City Controller," Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1960, page 10
  19. ^ Carlton Williams, "M&M Chief Supports Navarro for Controller," Los Angeles Times, February 15, 1961, page 21
  20. ^ "Arnebergh and Navarro Meet the Test," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1961, page B4
  21. ^ Carlton Williams, "Record Vote Seen in City Primary," Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1961, page 3
  22. ^ "Complete Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1961
  23. ^ "Complete Returns in City Election," Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1965, page 3
  24. ^ "Election Results," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1969, page 28
  25. ^ Kenneth Reich, "Arnebergh-Pines Runoff," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1973, page 22
  26. ^ "Election Returns," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1973, page 21 Given names of five candidates are not available.
  27. ^ Erwin Baker, "Navarro Hits Plan to Make Job Appointive," Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1969, page A-5
  28. ^ Doug Shuit, "Controller Opposes Bid to Change Job," Los Angeles Times, January 25, 1977, page C-3
  29. ^ William Farr, "Defense Fails to Bar Data in Check Case," Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1975, page D-3
  30. ^ "Southland," Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1975, page A-2
  31. ^ "'Little Kefauver Group' Suggested by Candidate," Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1951, page 14

Preceded by
Daniel O. Hoye
Los Angeles City Controller
Succeeded by
Ira Reiner
Preceded by
G. Vernon Bennett
Los Angeles City Council
10th District

Succeeded by
Joe E. Hollingsworth

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