Black History Month Profiles

Throughout Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recognized standout African American trailblazers from throughout Los Angeles County including Judge Kevin C. Brazile, Judge Eric C. Taylor, Blake Shepherd, Stephanie Wiggins, and Reverend Dr. Alexander Hamilton.

Select from the profiles below:

Judges Kevin C. Brazile & Eric C. Taylor

During a Black History Month board presentation Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas honored two individuals that contributed to the legal community in Los Angeles and the state of California.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile, and Assistant Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor, the first African American and second African American judges to hold their respective positions in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

“Their recent elections mark a significant example of how with passion, determination, hard work and opportunity, you can blaze trails,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “And how you can achieve the dreams of your intellectual and heart’s desire.”

Elected by their peers, the newly elected judges will be responsible for the day-to-day administrative, budgetary, and legislative aspects of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Brazile was an attorney in Los Angeles County’s Office of County Counsel where his practice included personal injury, employment discrimination, and federal civil rights litigation.

He was also Division Chief of the general tort litigation section and served as an in-house legal advisor to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for the Jail and Custody Division.

He has argued before the Second District Court of Appeals and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and won Conn v. Gabbert before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Brazile has held held numerous leadership positions within the Los Angeles Superior Court such as Assistant Supervising Judge of Civil, Supervising Judge of Civil, and is Site Judge of West Covina Courthouse.

Judge Brazile earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. He was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court bench by Governor Gray Davis in 2002.

“To get to this point, you don’t do it by yourself. You do it with help and the support of so many others,” said Judge Brazile. “Today I stand on the shoulders of the board members who have done so much for our county, who have done so much for me and who have done so much and made a difference for our community.”

Judge Taylor’s appointment to the Los Angeles Superior Court bench in 1998 by Governor Pete Wilson made him the second-youngest judicial officer ever appointed.

“One of the things that we’re dedicated to do is to show young kids who are like us growing up in Los Angeles, in public schools, that you can do anything,” said Judge Taylor. “Not just be the first and there’s no limit to it. You can be the second, third, there is no more barrier. And we want to take that message across Los Angeles and throughout the state. “

Judge Taylor served twice as the Supervising Judge of the Southwest District and on numerous Los Angeles Superior Court committees such as Bench-Bar Outreach, Civil Grand Jury, Legislative, Family and Security.

He held numerous statewide leadership positions such as the President of the California Judges Association and as advisory member to the California Judicial Council.

Judge Taylor earned a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Blake Shepherd

In honor of Black History Month, Cathedral High School senior Blake Shepherd was presented with a scroll from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in recognition of his superb athletic success and outstanding academic achievement.

“Blake is an extraordinary young scholar who personifies every aspect of leadership that we can all hope for in young men and women in our community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Shepherd recently accepted a full-scholarship to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), one of 10 students out of more than 16,000 selected applicants to the Questbridge National Match Program, a college and scholarship application process that helps high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to the nation’s most selective colleges.

Through his matriculation at Cathedral he has maintained a 4.86 GPA for six consecutive semesters and serves as Cathedral High School student body president.  Shepherd is currently the president of the National Honors Society, lead anchor for Cathedral High School’s morning news show, Good Morning Phantoms and volunteers as a calculus tutor.

Shepherd also tutors for School on Wheels, an after-school tutoring program that helps students in kindergarten through 12th grade that are experiencing homelessness.

Aside from is academic accolades, Shepherd excels on the track.  Prior to a major sports injury in 2017, Shepherd was ranked 5th in the Sprint Medley Arcadia Invitational, considered to be one of the most competitive high school track and field meets in the United States and has been billed as the “Home of National Records”

Shepherd was also named the Southern California Regional Champion in the 100 & 200 meter relay in 2015, as well as the Jr. Olympic Champion while competing in the Jr. Olympics in Naperville, Illinois.

Upon completion of his degree from M.I.T., Shepherd aspires to pursue a career in aerospace engineering and has already identified Lockheed Martin, Skunk Works and Space X as potential employers he will seek upon graduation.

“Set your sights high.  Remember you stand on the shoulders of many who came before you who did a lot of blocking, a lot of tackling, who did a lot of studying, a lot of praying, a lot of lifting  so you can do what you do,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This is Black History Month.  We celebrate by looking to the past, but we also celebrate it by looking to the future. Therefore, we celebrate the one and only Blake Shepherd.

Blake Shepherd thanked those that that have supported him.

“One thing that I will always say, until the end of time is that everything everyone achieves begins with someone believing in them in ways that they didn’t even believe in themselves,” said Blake Shepherd.

Stephanie Wiggins

Stephanie Wiggins at the February 12, 2019 presentation. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In the second celebration of Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to Stephanie Wiggins, the first female and first African American CEO of Metrolink.  In this role, she is now responsible for a commuter railroad that covers over 2.8 million train miles and transports over 400 million passengers per year.

“A true trailblazer, Stephanie Wiggins has enjoyed a stellar career in the transportation industry,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Stephanie Wiggins was named chief executive officer of Metrolink by a unanimous vote of the board of directors in December 2018. Wiggins assumed leadership in January 2019 and leads the 275-employee strong commuter railroad with a budget of $793 million.

As CEO, Wiggins directs an agency that operates a commuter rail network on seven routes across a six-county, 538 route-mile system.  Wiggins has held high-level positions at three of the five-member agencies that comprise Metrolink and is well-known as a customer -focused leader who finds solutions from a regional perspective.

Wiggins’ vision for the agency is to create value and exceed expectations by prioritizing a customer-first orientation with three pillars to provide an outstanding customer experience: safety and security, an integrated system, and modernizing business practices.

Prior to leading Metrolink, Wiggins was Deputy CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) where she assisted the CEO in providing leadership and formulating and achieving strategic public transportation objectives, including the passage of Measure M, a half-cent sales tax approved by 71 percent of voters in LA County. During her tenure at LA Metro, Stephanie also served as the Executive Director of Vendor/Contract Management, where she implemented procurement streamlining initiatives and greatly expanded Metro’s utilization of small and historically underutilized businesses.  Prior to that role, Stephanie was the Executive Officer and Project Director of the Congestion Reduction/ExpressLanes Program where she launched the first high occupancy toll lanes in LA County, the I-10 and I-110 Express Lanes, which improved travel times and travel reliability on two of the County’s most congested freeway corridors.

Prior to Metro, she served as Regional Programs Director for the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and oversaw transit, commuter rail, rideshare, goods movement and rail capital projects.

Wiggins began her career in transportation when she accepted a temporary assignment at the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority and fell in love with the mission of the agency. The six-month temporary assignment turned into more than four years. She then accepted a policy analyst position with the RCTC where she worked for an additional nine and a half years in management and senior management roles.

Feeling the need for personal and academic growth, Wiggins earned a Master of Business Administration from the USC Marshall School of Business in 2007. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Whittier College in 1992.

Wiggins is a self-proclaimed “military brat” whose father made his career in the Air Force. She credits her experience moving from base to base and country to country as a child for teaching her the importance of diversity.

Wiggins is the founding president of the Inland Empire Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar. She is the recipient of many awards including the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials 2018 Women Who Move the Nation Award. She is a Board Member of the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presents scroll to Stephanie Wiggins. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Reverend Dr. Alexander Hamilton

In celebration of Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to the Reverend Dr. Alexander Hamilton, who arranged the late Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-Award winning gospel album Amazing Grace, among many other stellar musical achievements.

Rev. Dr. Alexander Hamilton with, L-R, Lady Alicia Hamilton, Supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Hilda Solis and Alan Elliott. All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I commend you for a long-lasting and outstanding career in the music industry, and for all that you have done and continue to do in the lives of musical artists all over the world,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

In accepting the honor, Dr. Hamilton said, “As long as God gives me a finger to play with and a mind to think with, he’s got me and I’ll be making His music as much as I can.” He was joined by his wife, Lady Alicia Hamilton, as well as several friends and choir members. He said he has made a lifetime of conducting God’s music through them.

Dr. Hamilton has played, conducted and arranged scores for numerous music icons, including Lola Falana, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Lou Rawls, The Staple Singers, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Natalie Cole, Etta James, James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar and Mahalia Jackson. He also co-wrote the gospel hit He’s A Miracle Worker with Edie Kendrix.

On the big screen, Dr.  Hamilton can be seen directing the choir in Amazing Grace, which documented the recording of the Queen of Soul’s 1972 platinum selling album. The film’s producer, Alan Elliott, said of Dr. Hamilton: “His work is a monument to himself, to God, to the community of Los Angeles, and to the world.”

On February 7-18, Amazing Grace will kick off the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas encouraged everyone to see it, saying, “It is a musical experience that takes you to a different level.”

Dr. Hamilton began his career at the tender age of 9 years old.  As a child, he was a student of the late Hall Johnson, a well-known musical writer and arranger.

For 45 years, Dr. Hamilton served as the director of The Voices of Inspiration community choir, The New Generation Singers, and the Immanuel Gospel Community Choir. Dr. Hamilton and The Voices of Inspiration Choir have recorded several albums, including Glory, Hallelujah!, God Can, and Praise Him Till. Under his direction, The New Generation Singers recorded and released an album entitled Safe in God’s Love.

Currently, Dr. Hamilton is the Pastor of Philadelphia Church Fellowship of Los Angeles.