For Immediate Release


Wed., July 20, 2011  

A Humanitarian and Community Activist Passes Away


LOS ANGELES - Lillian Harkless Mobley, an activist whose deep commitment to healthcare helped foster a university devoted to medicine and science, and whose passion for social justice led to her reverence, passed away Monday night. She was 81.

Mrs. Lillian Harkless Mobley (left), standing next to former CDU president Susan Kelly, received in 2007 an honorary degree from the University. (Courtesy of Our Weekly)
The University’s flag was lowered to half-mast after Mrs. Mobley passed away.
(Photo by Laurell L. Black)

Surrounded by loved ones, she died at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood after a weeks-long stay. For much of her life, though she fought chronic illness, she was known to fight even harder for better healthcare and better standards of living for children and seniors who existed on marginal means.  

“Mrs. Mobley dedicated her life to serving the poor,” said David M. Carlisle, M.D., Ph.D., who ordered the CDU flag at half-mast upon hearing news of her death. “She was a tireless force for helping others in need, and for holding those in charge to their promises.”

She once described her philosophy this way: “I have to keep going…If I lie down and feel sorry for myself, they might as well call the undertaker. The challenges of life just keep me going, because there is still work to be done.” It was a belief that she held until the end.

“She had a very commanding presence,” said Gus Gill, M.D., a senior advisor to the president at Charles Drew University. “Something about her demeanor made everybody give her the utmost respect.”

From powerful politicians to university presidents to neighborhood children, everyone knew the Macon, Georgia native as “Mrs. Mobley.” “I don’t remember anybody ever calling her Lillian,” Dr. Gill said, even among her peers.  

Mrs. Mobley and her husband James Mobley, moved in 1950 to South Los Angeles. She became one of a group of mothers living in Watts whose grassroots activism became a powerful force for community change. She, along with Caffie Greene, Mary Henry and others were instrumental in persuading local officials to build what became known as Charles Drew University, and Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital. A lack of access to health care in the mid-1960s was one of the prime causes for the Watts riot.   

“She was critically important to the opening of Charles Drew University,” Dr. Carlisle said, ”and has remained a steadfast supporter of the institution.”

Mrs. Mobley also served on a committee that sought to construct permanent buildings at Los Angeles Southwest Community College. In 1980, she was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Mrs. Mobley also started a center in 1982 for seniors and youth, shortly after being named a delegate to the State Conference on Aging.

With deteriorating health, Mrs. Mobley sustained amputations and, in later years, became wheelchair bound. Still, she remained an active leader, serving on 20 organizational boards or holding similar leadership roles. She also played a critical role in helping build support for the Maxine Waters Education Preparatory Center that provides technical education.

Every Monday Mrs. Mobley directed the Black Community Health Task Force, a group she helped form more than two decades earlier for improving the community. She held those in power responsible for their promises.

For a lifetime of service, Mrs. Mobley received in 2007 a Doctor of Humane Letters for Service and Achievement from Charles Drew University. She also had served for years on Charles Drew University’s board of trustees. Even after stepping down from the board, she never stopped fulfilling what she viewed as her role for the school: upholding the University’s mission of conducting research and educating health professionals to serve the underserved, with excellence and compassion.



For more information, please contact:
Daryl Strickland

Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science
Telephone: (562) 229-4924
Office : (323) 563-4983


About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, minority-serving medical and health sciences institution.  Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals.  The only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S., CDU is recognized as a leader in translational and health inequities research, specifically with respect to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and HIV/AIDS.  Recently, the CDU/UCLA medical program was named the “best performer” in the University of California System with respect to producing outstanding underrepresented minority physicians by the Greenlining Institute.  For more information, visit .


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