Dwight Radcliff, an Air Force veteran who overcame homelessness to lead a national organization providing services for former soldiers facing similar obstacles, has died. He was 55.
Radcliff died Saturday of a heart attack at Los Angeles’ Marina Del Rey Hospital, near his home, said Nicole Ward, a family spokeswoman and longtime friend and associate.
As president and chief executive of United States Veterans Initiative, Radcliff led a nonprofit organization that provides job training and placement, counseling and housing to more than 2,000 veterans and their families in five states and the District of Columbia.
US Vets president Dwight Radcliff dead at 55
Air Force veteran Dwight Radcliff, president of the United States Veterans Initiative, has died of a heart attack. He was 55.
Family spokeswoman Nicole Ward says Radcliff died of heart attack Saturday at Marine del Rey Hospital.
Radcliff was a tireless worker for U.S. Vets, which helps thousands of veterans and their families find jobs, homes and counseling. The group recently broke ground on a $35 million affordable housing complex for low-income vets in Los Angeles.
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Last month, the group broke ground on a new $34.9 million affordable housing development for low-income veterans near Los Angeles International Airport.
“Dwight was the kind of guy who from where I sit on the government side gave us a good sense of what was going on at street level,” said Peter Dougherty, the national director of homeless veterans programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who had known Radcliff for 20 years. “Dwight never looked to get into the spotlight, he always looked to get things done. He cared so much for his fellow veterans and that led him to be an inspiration for so many of us. His death is a huge loss.”
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, who served in the Marines and also had known Radcliff for about 20 years, called him a “shining light” who had “the fire in the belly to help other veterans, he worked tirelessly.”
“He was a leader in assisting homeless veterans not only in Los Angeles County but throughout the nation,” Pregerson said.
Dwight Radcliff was born Oct. 4, 1954 in Los Angeles. He was raised in South Central Los Angeles and after high school served in the Air Force from 1971 to 1974.
Radcliff worked as a musician, playing bass in a band that toured with Stevie Wonder, Ward said. But he later suffered the hardships of homelessness and substance abuse.
“He suffered serious problems himself and I first knew him when he was getting his life back together,” Dougherty said.
In a 2003 story in the Los Angeles Times, Radcliff addressed his experience and how he sought services at a residential facility in West Los Angeles.
He got his life back on track and earned a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling at the University of California-Los Angeles. It was a path he said other homeless vets could follow.
Radcliff joined U.S. Vets in nearby Inglewood in 1997. He developed Veterans in Progress, a job re-entry and housing program. He was appointed president by the U.S. Vets board of directors in 2008.
Radcliff maintained a connection to his musical roots, playing bass in a rhythm and blues band of fellow veterans called Living Proof, which played in small venues.
“Dwight was an intimate part of building the services provided by (U.S. Vets),” said Tim Cantwell, president of a real estate and development firm who worked with Radcliff to establish facilities for homeless veterans. “In every which way you can imagine, he helped to raise awareness of issues facing veterans locally, statewide and nationally.”
Radcliff is survived by his wife, Paulette, three sons and two daughters, his mother, a sister and three grandchildren.