James Hadaway dies at 82; renovated urban recreation spaces as L.A. parks chief

James Hadaway, who emphasized the renovation of inner-city parks as general manager of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department from 1976 to 1992, has died. He was 82.

Hadaway, who had cancer, died Monday at his Hermosa Beach home, his family said.

"He was the architect of the urban impact program, which refurbished parks and recreation centers in inner-city and lower-income areas that had been kind of neglected," said Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of the department.

"It has had a profound effect on the way the Department of Parks and Recreation operates today. And it has benefited the community since," Regan said.

As the third person to lead the department since it was formed in 1947, Hadaway oversaw 350 city parks, 150 recreation centers and 92 miles of hiking trails. He had almost 2,200 full-time employees and a $96-million annual budget when he retired.

During his tenure, $250 million was spent to establish new recreation centers.

One new 160-acre park surrounding Lake Balboa opened in 1990 in the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area even though the lake would not be ready to be filled for two years.

"We thought we ought to open it up for people to use," Hadaway said in 1990 in The Times. "We've got places where people can picnic, fly kites and throw Frisbees around."

In 1986, Hadaway caused controversy when he fired Los Angeles Zoo director Warren Thomas and accused him of mishandling animal transfers and using zoo supplies for personal use. Thomas was reinstated but abruptly resigned in 1990 over similar charges.

James Edward Hadaway was born Nov. 27, 1928, in Smithville, Miss., to Ode Hadaway, who worked in forestry, and his wife, Ina.

Hadaway earned a bachelor's degree in recreation management in 1951 from Peabody College in Tennessee and a master's in 1955 from Mississippi Southern University.

The outgoing Hadaway "never met a stranger," said Penny Marler, his daughter-in-law. "He was simply charming.... He also loved to dance and always wanted to lead."

Hadaway is survived by Nelwyn, his wife of 63 years; sons Robin and Kirk; daughter Kerry Petty; and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Journey of Faith Church, 1243 Artesia Blvd., Manhattan Beach.


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