From Compton to Congress: His Grace For My Race is Walter R. Tucker III’s autobiography about his political rise and fall in the 1990s. The book introduces us to Tucker when he was sworn into Congress, a great achievement at 35 since he was the youngest African-American to hold a congressional seat. Unfortunately, during his first term, Tucker became the focus of an FBI bribery investigation and indictment!
The narration pauses on the scandal to trace Walter’s upbringing while slowly revealing the court case. Tucker comes from a well-respected family in the Los Angeles black community of Compton. His father, Walter Tucker II, was often invited to events with other prominent black politicians and eventually became Mayor of Compton. After Walter Tucker III graduated as the valedictorian of Compton High School, he went on to USC, then Georgetown Law School to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Instead of setting up shop in D.C., Walter found himself back home in California attempting to pass the bar exam. During this time, he started to write songs and dreamed of becoming an entertainment lawyer. But when he met his future wife, he finally decided to get his life together and pass the exam on the fifth attempt.
Tucker started out in the D.A.’s office, but then moved to a private practice after a mistake on the stand with a big case. His political leanings began when he became the campaign manager for his dad’s mayoral campaign. He led his dad to victory, but unfortunately his dad passed while holding office. Walter was urged to take his spot. Instead of an easy appointment, he had to run against the entire city council to become mayor. As LA is now my second home, it was interesting to learn about local politics in this book. The 1992 LA riots happened while Walter Tucker III was mayor. Unexpectedly, he was thrust into the national spotlight. You may remember seeing him on television calling for the National Guard to help during the riots. It was then, he met then president, George Bush, during the crisis. Lots of political buzz formed around him, which encouraged him to run for an open seat in Congress. He spends several chapters outlining the tough campaign to finally win that seat. All to have it dimmed by the indictment.
The FBI wanted him to flip on other council members, supposedly to root out corruption. Instead, Tucker sees the whole case as entrapment. The FBI had a track record back then of investigating African-American political figures more so than white politicians. They also decided to conveniently press charges right when he’s sworn into Congress, not when he was mayor of Compton when the crimes allegedly took place. Tucker enlisted Johnnie Cochran to defend him. But then the whole OJ thing happened during prep and Tucker is forced to get a new lawyer. The most interesting parts of the book to me were the court case. Unfortunately, only the last few chapters finally focus on it. I hoped for “Law & Order”-esque political drama, but it was more a personal account on how they chose to try the case since Tucker himself is a lawyer. The book ends with the court verdict. I won’t spoil here, but it is part of public record if you’d like to google it.
As noted in the introduction, Walter will write two more volumes about the aftermath of the case leading up to his work now as a pastor no doubt. From Compton to Congress was the January sponsored book of the month for Mocha Girls Read. The LA chapter had a great discussion remembering where we were when the ’92 riots happened during our meeting. Tucker also came to the end of our meeting to speak with us. Despite not a big fan of political books, I enjoyed it for the local and national history it revealed. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in political memoirs with an interest in African-American history of the 1990s.
Read more of my reviews on my blog, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict.