1992 LA Riots: How Reverend Cecil Murray is leaving a legacy at USC

Friday marks a major anniversary in SoCal's history. April 29th marks the 30th anniversary of the LA Riots of 1992. However, Reverend Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard of USC calls it civil unrest, saying there were so many devastated voices beyond the looting and burning after the not guilty verdicts of four LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King.

Reverend Cecil Murray of First AME Church launched to national recognition. The night of the verdicts he opened his church doors for the community to gather in service and prayers. It was a go-to place for the Mayor, celebrities, parishioners, and the media.

His teachings are now part of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture in partnership with the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement. Well into his 90s Murray is no longer doing interviews, but his legacy and lessons thrive today. Until COVID times you'd see him in the USC office space. The center is under USC's Dornsife College.


Reverend Smith-Pollard works there and describes herself as the spiritual daughter of Reverend Murray. She was in the First AME (FAME) choir back in 1992. At First AME, Reverend Murray is revered. He was pastor there for 27 years and a street circle is named in his honor.

Reverend Murray celebrated his 91st birthday in 2020 with a drive-thru celebration. He is no longer practicing, but even then offered words of healing. His birthday came at the height of the pandemic and just months after the murder of George Floyd.