updated 11/13/2007 10:36:38 PM ET 2007-11-14T03:36:38

Augustus Hawkins, who was California's first black congressman and helped form the Congressional Black Caucus, has died. He was 100.

Hawkins died Saturday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., of symptoms related to old age, his niece, Susan Jefferson, said Monday.

Hawkins, a Democrat, represented south Los Angeles for more than half a century, first starting off in the state Legislature in 1935 and then getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962.

Black politicians called Hawkins an inspiration and mentor.

"It was Gus Hawkins who gave us the credibility," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles. "It was Gus Hawkins who gave us the ideas. . . . He has left a sterling legacy."

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, who holds Hawkins' former seat, said in a statement that he was "the author of some of the most significant legislation ever passed in the House . . . particularly in the areas of education and labor. He cared about poor and working people."

Played a role in Civil Rights Act
Hawkins sponsored the equal employment section of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He helped create the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.

Hawkins also co-wrote the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978 that was designed to reduce unemployment and inflation.

Hawkins retired in 1990 and lived in the Washington, D.C., area. He was director of the Hawkins Family Memorial Foundation of Educational Research and Development, which he founded in 1969 to give college scholarships to young women in his district.

Hawkins' first wife, Pegga Adeline Smith, a concert singer, died in 1966. His second wife, Elsie, whom he married in 1977, died two months ago.

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