By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Ronald Dellums, a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, a former chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives District of Columbia and Armed Services Committees and a past mayor of Oakland, Calif., died July 30 at the age of 82 at his home in the District.
“It is with deep sadness that I can confirm the passing of a great warrior and statesman, Congressman Ronald Dellums,” U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who once was a Dellums congressional staffer and succeeded him in the House in 1998, said. “The contributions that Congressman Dellums made to our East Bay community, the nation and the world are too innumerable to count. I feel blessed to have called Congressman Dellums my dear friend, predecessor and mentor.” Dellums had been fighting cancer.
Dellums is being praised as a passionate progressive that didn’t hesitate to speak truth to power. He started in politics with his service as a member of the Berkeley, Calif., City Council in 1967 and served until 1970, when he was elected to the House.
Dellums served in the House from 1971-1979. He was a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971 and chairman of the CBC from 1989-1991.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation described Dellums as a groundbreaking visionary.
“The CBCF will always be grateful for visionaries like Ron who marched through the line of fire and encouraged a generation of upcoming political and community leaders to focus on creating ideas that prevail in good times and bad,” said A. Shaunise Washington, president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “He will be cemented in history as a lifelong advocate for justice, peace and civility.”
Dellums also chaired the House District Committee from 1979-1993 and was praised by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) for his work on behalf of the city.
“District of Columbia residents will always be grateful to Ron for his chairmanship of the District, before and after Home Rule,” Norton said. “Ron chaired the Committee on the District of Columbia, which no longer exists, for 14 years and always sought increasing empowerment for the city, from strengthening our role in the Congress to fighting for D.C. statehood. In effect, Ron Dellums took care of two districts, his own in the East Bay area and the District of Columbia.”
CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), said the late California lawmaker was a force to be reckoned with.
“A pioneer in his own right, Mr. Dellums paved the way on several policy fronts during his 27 years in Congress,” Richmond said. “More than 30 years ago, he worked to pass critical anti-Apartheid legislation imposing economic sanctions on the South African government. He also served as the first Black chairman of the House Armed Services Committee where he valiantly fought to reduce excessive military spending, limit gratuitous military activity abroad and repeal the ban on gay and lesbian service members.”
After his years in Congress ended in 1979, he worked as a lobbyist until his election as mayor of Oakland in 2006. He left elected politics for good in 2011.
Dellums was born in Oakland and attended its public schools. He got his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1960 and a master’s in social work for the University of California, Berkeley in 1962.
California Berkeley issued a statement on Dellums, saying “Dellums changed the course of history through his career in public service and this loss will be felt here in the Bay Area and across the country.”
Details on Dellums’ funeral were not available at press time.