Harold Patton, a former stage manager whose 20,000 books composed one of the largest private collections of black literature in the nation, died April 19 of cancer in Los Angeles. He was 71.
His Studio City home contained works ranging from 18th century poetry by former slave Phillis Wheatley to late 20th century novels by Terry McMillan.
As onetime stage manager for singer Ray Charles, Patton traveled the globe collecting books. He had rare first editions by authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, James Baldwin and poet Langston Hughes.
He began focusing on black literature during the 1950s when he spent a few months living in Paris and met Baldwin.
The oldest book in the collection was Wheatley’s “Poems on Various Subjects,” published in 1773.
One of Patton’s most treasured possessions was his leather-bound journal that held 200 authors’ signatures, including those of Baldwin, McMillan, Alex Haley and Maya Angelou.
Patton’s family plans to maintain and expand his collection.