Mel Mason grew up in Seaside, California, from the age of 13 after he and his mother moved there from Kentucky in 1956. Considered by many to be one of the greatest basketball players in the history of this area, he had a storied career at Monterey High School and at Monterey Peninsula College, where he was the college’s only All-American and, to this day, holds all of that school’s scoring and rebound records. In March 2011, he was inducted into the California Community College Athletic Association’s Hall Of Fame.
Highly recruited by most of the major universities in the country, Mel chose Oregon State University, where he took a stand against the racist treatment of himself and other Black athletes and students, lost his scholarship, and was barred from playing at any other university in the country. Other players who regarded him as the best player of all time in community college history went on to have professional careers. They all believed that Mel should have been there with them. “I considered this a blessing in many ways”, he would say later. “The ending of my basketball career opened other, wider doors for me that gave my life more meaning as I embarked on a now 49-year involvement as an activist for civil and human rights.”
Mel’s activism led him to become a member of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later, as a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, he would run for Governor of California in 1982 and for President of the United States in 1984. In 1980, after years of activism locally, Mel was elected to the Seaside City Council amid death threats and other acts of attempted intimidation.
Over his career, Mel has spoken in many parts of the world on behalf of human rights issues. In 2012, Mel completed the last of his three terms as Monterey County NAACP Branch President. He has received numerous awards for his activism and community service. His life has been chronicled in such books as Peninsula People by John McCleary; The Myths and Legends of Cannery Row by Ed Larsh; The History of African Americans in Monterey County by Jan Batiste Atkins; a book edited by former National NAACP President/CEO and Pacific Grove native Ben Jealous entitled REACH: 40 Black Men Speak of Living, Leading and Succeeding; and another more recently published book entitled Voices of Change, edited by local activists Gary Karnes and Karen Araujo.
He is married to the love of his life, Regina Mason, with whom he co-founded a nearly ten-year-old award-winning African American Family Resource Center called The Village Project, Inc., located in Seaside. He has two sons, Melvin, Jr. and Hasani.