Former head of NAACP's L.A. chapter
Washington was president of the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter from 1995 to 2009. She was particularly known for her activism on issues involving education and police hiring and misconduct.
"She was not a self-promoter. She wanted to change this city," said John Mack, a Los Angeles police commissioner and civil rights leader.
Washington was born Geraldine Robinson in Little Rock, Ark., on June 19, 1930. She attended the Pine Bluff and Fayetteville campuses of the University of Arkansas, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education.
In 1957, during the crisis over integrating Little Rock's Central High School, she moved to Los Angeles. After earning a doctorate in education at UCLA, she taught elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District and later worked as a reading specialist. She was a district personnel administrator when she retired in 1991.
As head of the local NAACP, she was a sharp critic of the Los Angeles Police Department after the Rodney King beating and also drew attention to what she and other activists said were discriminatory hiring practices in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Washington was a vocal advocate for expanding opportunities for African Americans in University of California admissions after affirmative action was banned in the late 1990s, and helped coordinate a campaign to reverse a decline in African American enrollment at UCLA in 2006.
During her tenure, she also worked to strengthen bonds between the NAACP and other ethnic constituencies. In announcing that the L.A. chapter for the first time would honor leaders from other ethnic communities at its annual dinner in 2000, she said: "We realize that Los Angeles' demographics are continuing to evolve, so we must also evolve our traditional attitudes."
Washington also served as a national coordinator for women for the NAACP's western region.
Actress in films in late 1940s into the '50s
Denise Darcel, 87, a buxom, French-born actress known for her vivacious roles in such films as "Vera Cruz" and "Thunder in the Pines," died Dec. 23 at a Los Angeles hospital of complications from emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm, said her son Craig.
Darcel came to the United States in 1947 with the first of her four husbands, an American G.I. who had served in Europe during World War II.
She starred in a string of films from the late 1940s into the '50s, including "Battleground" with Van Johnson, "Tarzan and the Slave Girl" with Lex Barker, "Westward the Women" with Robert Taylor and "Young Man with Ideas" with Glenn Ford.
She most famously played a vivacious, double-crossing countess in 1954's "Vera Cruz" opposite Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper.
Darcel also sang and acted in the 1950s Broadway musicals "Pardon Our French" and "Oh Captain!"
—Los Angeles Times wire reports
PASSINGS: Geraldine Washington, Denise Darcel
Geraldine Washington, the former head of the NAACP's L.A. chapter, dies at 81; Denise Darcel, an actress in films in the late 1940s and into the '50s, dies at 87