Considering much of his life was spent trumpeting the concerns of area youth, the quiet passing of longtime Pasadena youth advocate and former City Council candidate Ed “Brother” Bryant last week came as a surprise to some who knew the man.
Pasadena Police Detective Randell Taylor, for one, had not heard the news of Bryant’s death due to prostate cancer until he was contacted for this story. Taylor worked with Bryant when Taylor was a young officer and Bryant was a youth counselor at the Pasadena Courthouse from 1974 to 1996.
“He always had the community in mind,” Taylor recalled. “If something went down, and there was a question about the police department’s action, he always came to us and asked for facts before he went out to the community. It’s sad news. I send my condolences to his family.”
Bryant was surrounded by family and friends when he died Thursday at his home in Azusa. He was 70.
Memorial Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 2283 N. Fair Oaks Ave., in Altadena.
Former Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole, who squared off against Bryant in 1991 in his re-election bid for the council’s District 2 seat, was also surprised and saddened by news of Bryant’s death.
“He was a wonderful man,” said Cole, who is now the city manager of Ventura. “Ed Bryant had a huge heart and was committed to making a difference in the lives of people around him. In particular, people who many had given up on. I don’t know anyone who was responsible for turning around more people than Ed Bryant.”
Bryant started the Pasadena Youth Christian Center in 1965, soon after arriving in Southern California from his native Pittsburgh, Pa., and taking a job as a postal worker.
“My brothers and I went through the PYCC when it first started,” said Bryant’s nephew, Chip Johnson, who is now a teacher in El Monte. “It was just a house and a garage back then. We met in the house and then went out in the garage and played. His message was education through Christian means. He didn’t take any nonsense from the kids, but they all knew he loved them. He was Uncle Eddie to a lot of people, but everybody knew him as Brother Bryant. I think every third person in Pasadena knew him.”
The PYCC has expanded since then to include a gym and a chapel, and many of the young men and women who went through the program have gone on to enjoy successful careers as doctors and lawyers, according to Johnson.
One way Bryant came to know the community was through his position at the Post Office.
“In those days, mail carriers had to walk, so he got to know a lot of the local youth and he saw the need for a youth center,” said Johnson.
A statement released by the PYCC said that Bryant noticed the area was full of “broken homes ruined by unemployment and substance abuse.” Bryant, the statement continued, “noticed that young people were growing up unsupervised, bitter and feeling that parents, school and police authorities had let them down.”
“He was a caring person, concerned person who was willing to help people,” said friend Wallace Pope, who knew Bryant for 37 years. “He just reached out to people. He was a very likable person who liked the ministry and liked people. He had a lot of integrity.”