When Theo Logan retired after 20 years in the Army in 1962, he got his real estate license and opened Logan Realty three years later — where else but in Logan Heights.
He wasn’t related to Civil War Gen. John A. Logan, an Illinois congressman who authored legislation for a transcontinental railroad ending in San Diego and for whom Logan Avenue and the neighborhood were named. (Logan was also a Republican manager in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.)
But our local Logan, born in Oklahoma and now 102, had spent summers with his grandparents in San Diego in the 1920s and planned to launch his career in the place he calls the “jewel of America.”
It was a time of redlining by lenders, unwilling to write mortgages for blacks and other minorities, and segregated housing.
“Years later Poway opened and there was a rush by whites to move to Poway,” he said from his third-floor condo at Brittany Tower in Bankers Hill where he and his wife Martha live.
But that white flight made way for African Americans to buy their first homes. The median price for a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Logan Heights was about $13,000. (Today the median price for a home in that area is $333,000, according to CoreLogic.)
“I encouraged a lot of people who didn’t realize that they were able to buy,” he said, adding that he had no qualms about the change in racial makeup.
When commercial banks turned down their loan applications, Logan was able to arrange FHA and VA loans.
About this time, he joined the San Diego Board of Realtors — today’s Greater San Diego Association of Realtors — and chaired its Neighborhood Revitalization Committee.
In 1978, he became the first African American elected as a local realty board president.
“I was received with open arms,” he said. “I made a lot of friends on the San Diego board. It was almost a joy for me to work there. “
That same year saw the passage of the Proposition 13 tax reform measure that cut property taxes and limited their increase to no more than 2 percent annually until resale — a cap that remains in place today.
After the initiative passed, Logan urged landlords to share their tax cut windfalls with tenants through reduced or frozen rents.
“If such voluntary action is not taken,” Logan said at the time, “initiative or legislative action mandating rent control, rent freezes and/or a pass-through of tax savings will take on added impetus.”
No such controls ever took hold throughout San Diego County and after decades of rising rents, the Legislature this year passed a bill mandating rent control statewide. Another ballot measure is in the works to remove Proposition 13 tax limitation from commercial properties.
Logan’s higher profile led to his only race for elected office — the San Diego Unified School District board in 1979. “I do not view this as an opportunity to launch a political career,” he said when he announced his candidacy. “Frankly, I am nearing the end of my second professional career and this is a chance for me to give some time and effort back to the community that has been good to me and my family.”
He raised the most money in the primary but came in fourth.
He went on to serve on the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., Parks and Recreation Board, and county Assessment Appeals Board.
Logan was born April 30, 1917, in Lima, Okla., where his father worked on building and maintaining tracks for the Rock Island railroad and his mother was a school teacher. He graduated in 1939 with a liberal arts degree at the historically black and Presbyterian-sponsored Lincoln University in Oxford, Penn., and moved to San Diego in September 1941, intending to work in the local welfare department.
But when war broke out three months later, he was soon drafted into the Army and sent for six months of training at Fort Huachuca south of Phoenix. Then he shipped out to Italy, where he was a platoon leader in an anti-tank gun unit and later served as a liaison officer. He later served in Germany, Japan and Korea.
Looking back, Logan said the Army gave him a way to concentrate on the work at hand, a skill he had not yet developed as a student.
“The Army will always be my focus,” he said, and he enjoyed sharing memories with fellow veterans of the 92nd Infantry Division. As the only all-black unit to see combat in World War II, it inherited the reputation of the famed Buffalo Soldiers’ cavalry regiment that fought in the late-19th century Indian Wars.
Logan taught from 1955 to 1959 at another historically black school — Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. It was there that he met and married his wife, who will turn 87 on Dec. 7; she earned a law degree in 1972 and was one of a handful of black women attorneys in San Diego. They had two children, William and Barbara, both born in Germany where Logan was stationed a second time from 1960 to 1962.
The Logans, meanwhile, had bought a home on Marine View Avenue, just north of the National City boundary with San Diego, and moved there when he retired from the Army in 1962. They moved several times before buying at Brittany Tower in 2014.
“I think San Diego is one of the jewels of America,” he said. “In addition to the climate, I think there’s a certain amount of tolerance in San Diego that we kind of fluff over and don’t realize it’s much more so than in other big cities.”
When Logan first visited San Diego as a youngster, the downtown tidelands had yet to be filled in, Mission Bay was all mudflats and the city’s population of 121,000 was a tenth of what it is today. Despite current concerns about housing affordability, income inequality and residual racism, his long perspective tells him that things are better today.
Being able to buy in a luxury high-rise with a breathtaking view of San Diego Bay represents to him remarkable progress away from formerly segregated housing patterns.
“I don’t think this unit where we are, we wouldn’t be able to be here in the old days,” he said. “I think if you have the funds to buy in San Diego, you can live there if you want. I think that’s a big plus.”
Article Courtesy of The San Diego Union Tribune Roger Showley is a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at email@example.com and (619) 787-5714.
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