Ron Dellums
National Visionary

Born November 24, 1935
Oakland, California

First African American elected to Congress from Northern California, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and current mayor of Oakland, CA

A life-long advocate of peace and social justice, Ron Dellums was re-elected 13 times and served for 27 uninterrupted years as an outspoken and controversial, but highly respected member of the US House of Representatives.   Initially seeking a life in education, community activism and social work, Dellums was called to public office in 1967.   His tenure in politics has been defined by a strong adherence to the principles of social progress, community activism and peace as viable and necessary national and international pursuits.   In 2007, Dellums returned to public office as the Mayor of Oakland, California. 

Dellums as a young man.

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Born in West Oakland, California on November 24, 1935 Dellums served in the United States Marine Corps, before going on to earn an associate's degree from Oakland City College, a bachelors of arts from the San Francisco State University, and a master's of social work from the University of California, Berkeley. After completing his degrees, Dellums began his social and political career as a psychiatric social worker and political activist, becoming fully immersed in East Bay community politics. Dellums served on the Berkeley City Council from 1967 until 1970.   He then went on to win a seat as the California Seventh District Representative to the US Congress, where he served from 1971 until 1998.

Throughout his tenure in the House, Dellums consistently advocated for peaceful resolutions to non-military conflict, an end to dangerous military arms buildups and social and economic justice for oppressed peoples at home and abroad. He worked to end US involvement in Vietnam and served as a plaintiff in support of anti-war protestors; the resulting case, Dellums v. Powell established a precedent protecting the rights of citizens to petition government officials. Dellums was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to support and advance the agenda of urban housing, education, transportation, health care and economic development.   In 1972 Dellums began his campaign to end the apartheid system in South Africa, authoring bills to withhold support from the apartheid South African regime, and in 1986 managing to get "the Dellums Amendment" passed, a bill that called for American divestment of corporations from South Africa.   In 1973 Dellums secured a seat on the powerful House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and in 1992 he was appointed chairman of that committee. As a member of the HASC he worked to cut military spending that he believed destabilized security and drained resources from much needed domestic programs. During his tenure Dellums served on numerous other committees. When he left office in 1998, after 27 years of distinguished service, Dellums was lauded for his fairness, his willingness to listen, his adherence to principles and his intellect.  

As a private citizen, Dellums became the president of Healthcare International Management, an organization that worked with the newly democratic South African government to develop low cost, affordable healthcare and bring awareness, prevention and treatment in response to the AIDS epidemic. Most recently, Dellums was elected mayor of Oakland, California and assumed office in January, 2007.   Dellums' extraordinary and courageous political career has brought him a number of accolades, most notably the Defense Department's Medal of Distinguished Public Service and Peace Action's Lifetime Achievement Award.


Ron Dellums Wikipedia Page


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