For activists and reporters during the 1987 Howard Beach murder trial, Richard Mangum was indispensable. His role in the historic trial as part of the prosecution team headed by Special Prosecutor Charles Hynes was as a liaison to the media, which he did with unerring accuracy and sensitivity.
Mangum’s style and grace and his meticulous concern to get things right will be missed. He made his transition June 13 after enduring seven years of treatment and care after a medical error from brain surgery. He was 69.
Born May 19, 1946, in Manhattan, Mangum was the youngest child of Dorothy and Harvey Mangum. He was 6 years old when the family moved to South Ozone Park in Queens, where he would reside for the remainder of his highly productive life.
Education was of prime importance to his family, and Mangum relished each opportunity in the classroom, excelling in his studies at Stuyvesant High School and later at Queens College, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He received his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University and another master’s in public administration from New York University.
He capped off his educational successes with a juris doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law. However, as was noted in his obituary, his greatest achievement was “discovering the woman who would be his ultimate companion: Karol Baird. They married on June 8, 1968,” and their family grew to include two sons, Derren and Andom.
Before becoming a member of the Queens district attorney’s office and working with Hynes in the Howard Beach trial, Mangum spent several years as a social worker, mainly with the Children’s Aid Society. In that capacity, he was again important in imparting to the public some of the difficulties confronting the agency and at the same time improving its outreach to the community.
Mangum was also a member of the Bronx district attorney’s office, from which he retired as executive assistant district attorney in 2002.
But his retirement was short-lived. He soon embarked on a second career with the Highbridge Advisory Council Family Services as chief operating officer of a large, complex early childhood education agency in the Bronx. In 2014, on his birthday—one that he shared with Malcolm X—he was honored for his work and commitment by the agency. At that ceremony, the center was renamed the Richard H. Mangum Early Learning Center.
He was a member of numerous civic, social and professional organizations, including the National Black Prosecutors Association and the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association, serving as president of both.
When Mangum entered a room, his personality was a commanding force. A big man physically and intellectually, he could discuss the events of the day with the same intensity as his expertise on law, African art, music and world history, particularly his genealogical passion.
His genealogy continues through his wife, Karol, and his sons, as well as his sister, Carol; his brother, Claude; sister-in-law, Terri; brother-in-law, Theodore (“Shep”); daughter-in-law, Cicely; grandsons, Yende, Ahsaan, Kato and Cheo; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and beloved friends.