We Remember: Watts Riots’ Rena Price Passes On at 97

Rena Price flanked by her sons Marquette Frye (right) and Wendell Pierce (left) during a Senate Hearing in August  1965.
Rena Price flanked by her sons Marquette Frye (right) and stepson Ronald, (left) during a state Senate hearing in August 1965. (Los Angeles Times)

It’s unfortunate that so many history lessons we could’ve learned from the very people who were living and/or a part of  instrumental periods of our history aren’t known until after they are gone.

Although, we’ve been privy to the statistics of the Watts Riots of 1965, where for “six turbulent days that left 34 dead, thousands injured and millions of dollars in property damaged or destroyed,” but many of us, never really heard an extensive interview with Rena Price, who along with her sons, became the poster child for the inception of the infamous riots.  But now Rena Price has passed on of natural causes at the age of 97, and her story passes with her.

National Guard comes in to help bring order to the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts in the days of rioting after the traffic stop in August 1965 with Marquette Frye, his brother Wendell Price, and their mother Rena Price became violent.
National Guard comes in to help bring order to the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts in the days of rioting after the traffic cops became violent with Marquette Frye, his brother Wendell Price, and their mother Rena Price in August 11, 1965.

According to the Los Angeles Times, after her son, Marquette Frye, was stopped by police August 11, 1965, for driving erratically down a street in South Los Angeles in his neighborhood, his mother heard of the disturbance and came running to defend her son during a racially charged era where many sons had been lost to their mothers at the hands of police (not much has changed).  The report states that Frye and his brother Ronald were cooperating with police, but he had failed sobriety tests and somehow one officer decided to hit Frye in the head with a baton which set his mother off and she charged one of the officers.

Her arrest combined with the attack and arrest of her son and stepson, ignited the riots that she was not aware of until her daughter came to get her released from jail the next day.  Her son Wendell Price, revealed in an interview last week that they were all “hassled” due to the events whenever the name “Frye” came up.  Marquette preceded his mother in death after struggling with alcoholism, multiple arrests, spotty employment, and the loss of his infant son who had heart problems.  He died from pneumonia in 1986, at the age of 41.

Rest in peace…finally.

Read more here.

-J.C. Brooks

3 thoughts on “We Remember: Watts Riots’ Rena Price Passes On at 97”

  1. What transpired that day shouldn’t’ve happened. I doubt if the cop hit him. If anything, the mom argued w/ her son about being drunk then SHE hit the cop. Thats why her and Marquette were arrested for disorderly conduct among other charges. Difficult to believe how ghetto blacks stoop so low as to destroy property thats not even theirs.

  2. Rena Price will be known as a bad and mean-tempered, ghetto broad who sparked a riot b/c HER son broke the law and they were both arrested. She had no business striking an officer of the law. Thets whats wrong with ghetto blacks. Ever since I was a teenager, older folks have felt as though they can do/say whatever they want and it doesn’t matter what. If they drink, drive, and get pulled over by the cops thats racism. No, you idiot. You getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking is against the law. It was back then and it still is. Every sensible person knows/knew this except Rena and her alcoholic sons. Them and those rioters should’ve been forced to pay for the damages they caused.

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