Mervyn Dymally, former California lieutenant governor and U.S. congressman who is often credited with breaking down color barriers and opening doors for minorities in the state, died on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles. He was 86.
According to the Associated Press, Dymally's wife, Alice Gueno Dymally confirmed his death and said the former lawmaker's health had been in decline.
Dymally, who was born in Trinidad, came to the U.S. to study at California State University. After graduation, he matriculated to other institutions where he earned numerous other degrees, according to the New York Times.
A Democrat, he embarked on a career in politics in 1962 and became California's first foreign-born, Black state assemblyman. Four years later he became the state's first Black state senator and in 1974, became its first Black lieutenant governor.
In 1980, Dymally won a congressional seat and became chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. During this time, he also served as chairman of the House Foreign affairs committee, where he focused on humanitarian and economic aid for Africa.
In the midst of his congressional career, Dymally was inundated with numerous allegations of bribery and fraud. Throughout the ordeal, he maintained his innocence and was never charged.
After retiring from Congress, Dymally was elected in 2002 to fill the same Assembly seat to which he was elected in 1962. He held the seat for three terms; an attempt to regain a state Senate seat in 2008 failed.
In his later years, Dymally headed a health institute at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, which bears his name.
Dymally is survived by his wife Alice, a son and a daughter.