In Loving Memory of Bessie Irene Mosley Scott
August 12, 1946 - October 7, 2018
It was the poet Rudy Kipling who wrote so wisely about the qualities in life a person needed if they were to live well and leave behind a good name, making special note that doing so required most of all a clear mind and good heart. And it was a wise but unknown soul who observed that the measure of a person's life is what they did between the day they were born and the day they departed this life.
No better yardstick is needed than to draw upon that observations when considering the life led by Bessie Mosley Scott, born Bessie Irene Mosley who was called home to join the Lord God on Sunday, October 7, 2018, surrounded by her husband of 43 years, her loving family and friends.
Bessie was born on August 12, 1946, in Evergreen, Alabama, to Johnnie Lee and Bessie Mae Mosley. She was the third of eight children and would live there until the family moved to the community to the of Watts in South-Central Los Angeles, California. Watts is where she would grow up, where her father worked in construction building houses and her mother was a commercial cook. As well as loving homemaker and nurturer. Together, Bessie's parents planted in their offspring the values of hard work, love and support for the family, a social conscience when it came to the community one grew up in, a strong sense of morals reflected in the way one you carried out the Christ an ethos of the Good Samaritan, the commitment to make change when needed in oneself and the world, and most of all, the courage and willingness to do so when needed.
Called Irene by her family and friends, Bessie was a true product of her environment and proud Daughter of Watts. Before moving to Los Angeles, her parents had their own farm in Alabama, and it was from them she learned the habit of hard work and love for the country. As a child, she attended and graduated from 102nd Street Elementary School, moving from there to nearby Edwin Markham Junior High School before graduating from David Starr Jordan Senior High.
She was active in all three of these schools but truly blossomed while a student at Jordan where she proved herself a fine student in the classroom, was active in clubs and organizations, and a popular student in the process. Jordan High, much like Watts itself, was predominantly black in racial composition. The students of Jordan High took great pride in maintaining their school's appearance and reputation. Equally important to Bessie was her own personal and spiritual life with her being an active, faithful and ongoing member of Union Missionary Baptist Church on East 105th Street.
This was especially significant given these years which were the early 1960s as America had as its leader John F. Kennedy and the world itself was poised on the tipping edge of significant social change. This was the era of Sputnik, of Khrushchev, and the stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement. It was the mid-1960s, and little did Bessie, or anyone expect or suspect that her home community of Watts and all of America would soon undergo a major social upheaval.
That upheaval showed itself in 1965 when what was supposed to have been a routine stop of nearby 107th and Avalon Boulevard exploded into the Watts Riots, often referred to by residents as the Watts Revolt, which ranged from August 11th-15th before ending. When it was over, what had once been a thriving black community was marked by street after street oF burnt buildings and stores which had been pillaged. For the next four years up through and including 1968, more than 270 of the nation"s cities from New York to Chicago to Miami to New Orleans experienced the same turmoil.
But no place was this more evident than in Watts itself. A special Blue Ribbon panel of city and national leaders was formed to investigate the causes of the turmoil which resulted in Watts being known worldwide as Charcoal Alley No. 1. That committee was called the McCone Commission, being named after its chairman John McCone, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Among its many findings was the desperate need for health care services in South Los Angeles and among the few recommendations that was moved on was the building of what would become the Los Angeles County Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital. This would become one of the major acute care hospitals in Los Angeles, serving a population of 550,000 people, with a comprehensive range of services both at the facility itself its outpatient care.
Bessie was part of the first cadre of staff trained in 20 different disciplines as she began working as a Community Health Services Specialist. This was a position she would hold for the next seven years. During that time she met and then married Johnie Scott on June 14, 1975, who was working at that time as the Public Relations Director for the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School, this being the academic and medical training arm of King Hospital.
That union between Bessie and Johnie would change as well as shape the next four decades of their lives. As fate would have it, they knew one another long before the Watts Riots. They first met in grade school, at 102nd Street Elementary School, which Johnie also attended, in the first grade. They would both attend Markham Junior High during the same years, and then both would go onto Jordan. Strange though it may seem, though, they traveled in different, but very close circles during those formative years.
Johnie had left Watts after graduating from Jordan to attend first John Harvard College in Cambridge Massachusetts before returning in 1965 where he, too, was there for the Watts Riots. A year later, he departed for Stanford University in Palo Alto, California where he lived for the next seven years before coming back, once more, to his hometown of Watts in 1972. The two met in 1973 and two years later, were married at Citizens of Zion Baptist Church (formerly 103rd Street Baptist Church) by Rev. Dr. Bobby Newman, Jr.
Bessie continued working for King Hospital before leaving there in 1978. By then, they had three children: Tadd, who was Johnie's son by prior marriage, then Cicely Amber who was born on May 18, 1976, and Chelsea Jeanine, born December 26, 1977. Bessie began working for Cerritos Medical Center as a Behavioral Specialist in 1978 before the family moved from their home in Cerritos, California to Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley.
By this time, they had the third and final child from that union, Charmaine Imani Scott who, as it turned out, was born February 19, 1982, at the same Martin Luther King. Jr. Hospital. In 1984, Johnie left Drew Medical School to accept a position on the teaching faculty of California State University in the Pan African Studies Department. Bessie had continued her professional career, this time with Shield Health Care Corporation, a comprehensive health services provider for the western United States.
While she rose through the ranks at Shield Health Care to become a Division Leader, Bessie had become increasingly involved with the responsibilities of motherhood with the raising of their children. This seemingly indefatigable woman became active in the school organizations of their children ranging from the Parent-Teacher Associations to she and her husband. Now living in the city of San Fernando, Bessie had a real concern about the social awareness and education of the kids her children were growing up with. She impressed this upon her husband. Together, they formed the Frederick Douglas Heritage Association which was an afterschool club where the neighborhood kids had a chance to learn African American History and Culture while going on field trips they financed through volunteer fund-raising projects. Bessie was now a full-time Mom and, by choice, a community activist for her children.
The family moved closer to California State University at Northridge where Johnie was now a tenured professor. She had taken an active role in the activities of the faculty wives at Northridge, particularly with the Pan African Studies Department which aligned perfectly with the social conscience she was raised with. She became even more deeply involved with the church. Bessie and her husband had become active with the Inspired Word Christian Fellowship and together served on the Deacon Board. She made sure her now adult children were active in the church as well.
Now retired from Shield Health Care where she turned down a job advancement officer from that company that would have found her traveling the western United States in training and development, she became increasingly involved with matters related to her own personal life. She faced and fought a series of health care and medical challenges that only seemed to increase as time went on, challenges that ultimately saw her become physically disabled.
Her tireless spirit took over as she encouraged her children and grandchildren. Bessie and Johnie opened their doors to their children who, as circumstances would have it, encountered some rough times but in the Scott family, and especially in the eyes of its matriarch, lived by the credo that "No matter how hard things may get, family stays together."
And her grandchildren came to know Bessie by her smile, her constant encouragement, her participation in their school events, the attention she gave to their friends and the people they chose to associate with, served as the rule of thumb in the house. This widely respected and beloved woman who had survived the childhood trauma of being struck by a truck and nearly killed, who had grown up during one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation"s history, who had stood by the side of her husband through good times and rough times, who had a direct hand in the nurturing of five kids to adulthoods that were not without their problems, but certainly had given more cause for joy than heartaches, who had been a role model to her family, an inspiration to her friends, and the soulmate to her husband, who never strayed from God in her life nor let the Lord take second place in anything or any endeavor, was now approaching her end of days.
The medical problems increased rather than diminished but failed to break her spirit. By now, a series of strokes and hear attacks had rendered her totally disabled. She continued to encourage her children, have a kind word for friends, and among her greatest joys was the new love she discovered in becoming not a grandmother but a great-grandmother. In the final hours of life, the family gathered at her bedside to be there, to show love, to shed tears together, not only as she drew her last breaths, but as she was being released from pain to join her Father, our Lord God, in Heaven. As the sun set on her at 5:33 pm Sunday in Tarzana, California, all who were present knew Bessie Irene " Amazing Bessie " had been released from this life and gone to Glory with no regrets. None at all. She has made her peace and entered the Gates of Heaven, unafraid.