Photo credit: Ben Margot/AP
Former California congressman and Congressional Black Caucus founder Ron Dellums passed away Monday night at the age of 82.
Dellums, who was known as an advocate for people of color, poor people and social justice, was one of 13 Black lawmakers to start the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and Northern California’s first Black congressman. On Monday, the CBC tweeted out their appreciation for Dellums work saying, “His work for his community and his work for the caucus will be missed. Thank you for your contributions and selfless service.”
In 1967, Dellums started his political career when he won a City Council seat in Berkeley, California. In 1970, he was elected to Congress where he continued his fight for a more progressive America despite the backlash he received from many conservative politicians.
“So here comes this Black guy from the Bay Area,” The New York Times reports him telling The Progressive magazine when he left Congress in 1998, “talking about peace, feminism, challenging racism, challenging the priorities of the country, and talking about preserving the fragile nature of our ecological system. People looked at me as if I was a freak. And looking back, I think that the only crime we committed was that we were 20 years ahead of our time.”
During his time in Congress, Dellums fought for not only equal rights in the United States, but he also fought to end apartheid in South Africa. After leaving Congress, he stayed in Washington, D.C. and worked as a lobbyist before returning to Oakland, California in 2006 to run for mayor. From 2007 to 2011, Dellums served as mayor of his hometown and then returned to Washington, D.C. to continue his work as a lobbyist.
Dellums’ passing has caused an outpour of gratitude from many political leaders who recognize the impact he had on the American government. According to USA Today, Rep. John Lewis called Dellums a “peaceful warrior in the struggle to realize true democracy in America” and democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Dellums a “progressive hero and outstanding leader.”
Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a Black Georgia Democrat tells the New York Times, “Ron Dellums was an agitator for justice when it wasn’t popular to be one. He was a trailblazer, a maverick and in many ways my mentor. He taught me that despite the urge to sprint, we have to become long distance runners.”
May Ron Dellums always rest in power.