100 years at the Los Angeles Coliseum: More than a sports venue

Clockwise from top left: Martin Luther King Jr.; Billy Graham; Pope John Paul II; John F. Kennedy

(Photos by Associated Press; photo illustration by Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Oct. 1, 1935: Franklin D. Roosevelt speech. In President Roosevelt’s first visit to Los Angeles as president, he spoke from his car to a crowd of 70,000 at the Coliseum, stating “No state has a finer record in the great task of putting the strong arm of government behind the less fortunate members of society.”

July 15, 1960: “In honored memory of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). 35th President of the United States. July 15, 1960, John F. Kennedy accepted the nomination of the Democratic party for president at this approximate location. ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — Ask what you can do for you country.’ Inaugural Speech January, 1961.” Plaque displayed 1964.

Sept. 8, 1963: “Evangelist Billy Graham’s crusade for Christ. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, August 15th to September 8th, 1963. This plaque commemorates the 1963 crusade for Christ with a total attendance of 920,927 highlighted by the concluding session on Sunday, September 8th. Citizens from every walk of life occupied every seat and spilled onto the playing field grass to establish a record turnstile attendance for a single event in the Coliseum of 134,254. An additional 20,000 people were estimated to have listened on loudspeakers in Exposition Park. ‘My sermons were simple but so was Christ’ —Rev. Billy Graham.” Plaque displayed 1965.

May 31, 1964: The Coliseum was hosting the “Religious Witness for Human Dignity” event, with Martin Luther King Jr. as the keynote speaker. King said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to open the floodgates of opportunity and allow now an avalanche of justice to pour upon us. Now is the time to get rid of segregation and discrimination. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. This is the challenge of the hour.” Attendance: 14,893.

September 15, 1987: “His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Commemorating the first Mass to be celebrated by a Pope in California. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, September 15, 1987. His Excellence Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and the Church of Southern California welcoming the Holy Father on his second pastoral visit to the United States of America. Unity in the work of service.” Plaque displayed 1987.

June 20, 1990: “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President of the Republic of South Africa 1994-1999. Nobel Peace Prize 1993. June 20, 1990, Nelson Mandela appeared in the Coliseum after 27 years of political imprisonment. ‘We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.’ Inaugural speech, May, 1994.” Plaque displayed 2014.