This website is part of the USC Annenberg Digital Archives. Read More

This website is part of the USC Annenberg Digital Archives. Read More

A History of Power in L.A.

Henry O'Melveny, second from the right, hat in hand, at the Sunset Club. (USC Libraries)

 

Henry O'Melveny founded the law firm that would, eventually, be known as O'Melveny and Myers. That firm would form a major through line in the history of power in Los Angeles, from partner James Lin Beebe's membership in the Committee of 25 to the days of Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Mayor Richard Riordan.

O'Melveny, along with men like Downey and Hellman, was part of the first-generation business elite in the city. Their first initiative was to convince (i.e., bribe) Southern Pacific to make Los Angeles a main stop on the transcontinental railroad.

"Although the SP extorted extravagant land and cash subsidies to build a spur to the Los Angeles River," writes Mike Davis in City of Quartz, "Hellman and O'Melveny overrode railroad critics with glittering visions of prosperity imminently in the wake of the iron horse."

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