From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Mason, Melvin T. "Mel"

(born: 1943) 

Melvin T. Mason, a civil rights activist and educator, was born and raised in Providence, KY. His family moved to Seaside, CA, where Mason was an outstanding basketball player at Monterey High School. He graduated in 1960 and went on to play basketball at Monterey Peninsula (Junior) College [now the community college Monterey Peninsula College], leaving  school after his freshman year in 1961 to serve in the military. He was the youngest basketball player to be named All-Air Force, leading all branches of the military in scoring in Europe. In 1964 he was named Air Force European Command Player of the Year.

Problems that Mason considered racist in the military led to a Bad Conduct Discharge in 1965. With the help of U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel of California, the discharge was overturned and changed to an Honorable Discharge.

Mason returned to Monterey Peninsula College in 1966 and became the only All-America basketball player in the school's history; he is still the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Receiving over 100 basketball scholarship offers from around the United States, he accepted a scholarship at Oregon State University but lost it after taking a solitary stand against what he described as "the racist treatment of Black students," thus ending his basketball career because he was banned from playing basketball at any college in the U.S.

Mason earned his B.A. in social science at Golden Gate University, his M.A. in social work from San Jose State University, and a clinical social worker's license (LCSW) from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. When he was an employee at Western Electric in Sunnyvale, CA, he helped form the Black Workers Unity Caucus to fight job discrimination and sexual harassment.

Based on his work with the caucus, Mason was offered and accepted an  invitation to join the Black Panther Party in 1968. In 1970, he organized a Black United Farmworkers Union Support Committee and the first anti-police brutality campaigns on the Monterey Peninsula.

In 1976, Mason was unsuccessful in his run for Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Board. He ran for governor of California in 1982 but was ruled off the ballot. He was a city council member of Seaside, CA, where his voting record was investigated by the FBI based on his membership in the Socialist Workers Party.

Mason ran for President of the United States in 1984 as a candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, receiving 24,681 votes. He was a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against the FBI and their use of the Counterintelligence Program against the Black Panther Party and other groups.

From 1985 through 1987 Mason lived in New York, where he was part of the Anti-Apartheid Coalition in 1986, helping to  form the largest Anti-Apartheid demonstration in the history of the movement with over 300,000 people.

Mason returned to Seaside, CA, in 1987 and in the early 1990s became co-founder of the Regional Alliance for Progress Policy, serving as spokesperson and chairperson. He has founded and led a number of civil rights organizations and served on a number of boards. Internationally known, he  has been the guest of Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, Sinn Fein in Ireland, the Aborigines in Australia, and the Maori people in New Zealand.

Mason retired in 2006 after 10 years at California State University, Monterey Bay, which marked the end of a 40-year career as an educator, counselor, and mental health practitioner and director. He is a former president of the Monterey Peninsula Chapter of the NAACP and vice president of the California NAACP Conference.

Mason is the author of Mel Mason: the making of a revolutionary. He has received many awards, including his induction into the Monterey Peninsula College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2007, Mason received the Civil Rights Legacy Award from the Monterey Peninsula Chapter of the NAACP. Mason was an appointee to the Access to Excellence Committee with the California State University System, a program designed to increase the admission of minority students to CSU campuses.

In March 2011, Mason was inducted into the California Community College Athletic Hall of Fame [the same hall of fame that Jackie Robinson was inducted into for his athletic accomplishments at Pasadena City College].

For more see S. Purewal, "A Revolutionary life," The Monterey County Herald, 7/03/2006, Top Story section, p.  A1; The Trial of Leonard Peltier, by J. Messerschmidt and W. M. Kunstler; D. Coffin, "Lobos Legacy," The Monterey County Herald, 9/28/2010, p. D1; J. Devine, "Mel Mason named to JC Hall of Fame," The Monterey County Herald, 1/31/2011, p. B1; D. Taylor, "A Lifelong battle for equality," The Monterey County Herald, 3/20/2011, p. A1; and "Mel Mason, Monterey Peninsula, induction 2011" at CCCAA archives. See also Melvin T. Mason for additional information and a photograph of Mason.

Additional information was provided by Melvin T. Mason; contact him for a copy of his biography.

Kentucky County & Region

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Mel Mason: the making of a revolutionary
NKAA Source: The Monterey county herald (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Trial of Leonard Peltier

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“Mason, Melvin T. "Mel",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 19, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-08-05 16:05:41