Dedicated on March 27, 1972 the Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital was built in response to the 1965 Watts Riots. As early as the 1950s African American doctors, celebrities and average members of the community pushed local, state and Federal agencies to fund a hospital to serve the area. Many years would pass after the riots for the politics and multiple funding sources to come together. Located in Willowbrook, an unincorported portion of Los Angeles County near Watts and Compton, the Paul R. Williams-designed hospital was built on the original site of the old Palm Lanes public housing project. (Mitchell. The Crisis of the African American Architect, 2003) With multiple buildings and costing $100 million, the new County hospital addressed a genuine long-term community need—a hospital for acute cases in a medically underserved section of the city. For decades King would serve a multi-ethnic population of over 400,000 (Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. July 1973.)
When this county hospital, built with a combination of private, Federal and State of California funding opened it was hoped that the modern comprehensive medical complex would act as a catalyst for positive change in South Central Los Angeles. Almost 1,000 unskilled jobs at the hospital were initially filled by local residents, and all departments in the institution acted as resources for the surrounding community. By 2007, the hospital had lost sight of its original goal of being “All things to all people and then some” and became known instead as “Killer King.” Once the pride of the neighborhood, the hospital now provides few services.