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Former Congressman Mervyn Dymally Dies PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 11 October 2012 05:07

Was California’s First Black State Senator And Lt. Governor

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mervyn Dymally, a one-time janitor who rose to become California's first black state senator and lieutenant governor, has died at age 86.

Dymally, whose health had been in decline, died Sunday, Oct. 7, in Los Angeles, his wife Alice Gueno Dymally said in a statement.

"He lived a very extraordinary life and had no regrets," Mrs. Dymally said.

A viewing will be held Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Holy Cross Mortuary, 5835 W. Slauson Ave., in Culver City, according to spokeswoman Jasmyne Cannick. The funeral service will be held at 12:30 p.m.

The Trinidad-born Dymally was also a former teacher and union organizer before embarking on a political career in 1963 that lasted more than 40 years. He served in both houses of the state Legislature and in Congress representing Compton and its surrounding area.

He was elected as the state's first foreign-born black assemblyman in 1962, the first black senator in 1966, the first and only black lieutenant governor in 1974 and went on to win his congressional seat in 1980. In Congress, he served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he championed economic and humanitarian aid for Africa.

He took a 10-year retirement before running again at age 76 for the Assembly seat he held at the start of his political career. He won two more terms and ran, at 82, for the state Senate again in 2008, but lost the Democratic primary to Rod Wright.

"Mervyn Dymally was an extraordinary man who spent his life breaking new ground and advancing the cause of civil rights and equality," said Gov. Jerry Brown in a statement.

Brown was also governor when Dymally was lieutenant governor.

"He was both a thinker and a doer, bearing deep knowledge but never hesitating to take action where action was warranted. California has lost an important leader."

During his time in politics Dymally was also tainted by numerous investigations of fraud, bribery and pay-for-play campaign contributions.

Such allegations, including unsubstantiated claims he would be indicted by the federal government, eventually led to his defeat in his 1978 bid for re-election as lieutenant governor.

Dymally maintained that he never acted illegally and said the probes were politically motivated. No charges were ever filed.

"We politicians ... think we are very important, but we are not that important, and regular people don't seem to be that concerned about a lot of the legislation that we pass," he told the Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "My legacy has not been my legislation. My legacy has been my openness."

In his final years, the tireless Dymally lead a health institute at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles. The university's nursing school bears his name.

"His dedication to public service continued when he left politics and his legacy will be long remembered," Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. He called Dymally "a trailblazer in every sense of the word."

Dymally was born May 12, 1926, in Trinidad. After graduating from high school, he worked as a reporter for The Vanguard, a weekly newspaper published by a labor union.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 05:11