In 1913, Edward A. Dickson, political editor of the Los Angeles Express, was offered a top government appointment: chairman of the California Railroad Commission. The progressive Republican co-founded the Lincoln-Roosevelt League that propelled Governor Hiram W. Johnson into office. The party had centered its campaign on better government and the condemnation of the entrenched power of the Southern Pacific Railroad. To the governor’s astonishment, Dickson declined the highly visible and coveted post. “What do you want, Dick?” Johnson asked. A 1901 graduate of the University of California, Dickson was unfailingly dedicated to his alma mater: “The only appointment that interests me is that of regent.”
So the 33-year-old crusader for government reform became one of the youngest individuals ever named to the university’s governing board and, more significantly, one of only a handful to represent Southern California. It was an unheralded event that nonetheless would mark a turning point in the transformation of the University of California into the nation’s first multicampus system. For Dickson, it was the beginning of a role he would hold for a record 43 years. During that time, Dickson not only successfully advocated for the creation of the institution that would eventually become UCLA, but also championed the campus’s continued development during its critical formative years, earning him the moniker, “Godfather of UCLA.”
(From UCLA: The First Century: ch. 1, p. 10)
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