Groundbreaking Lawmaker First Elected Foreign-Born Member of Congress, Represented California's 31st District From 1981-1993
Mr. Dymally passed away on Sunday, October 7 in Los Angeles from declining health. He was 86 and is survived by his wife of 44 years Alice Gueno Dymally, daughter Lynn and son Mark, as well as three sisters and a host of other relatives and friends.
Affectionately referred to as the "Godfather of African-American politics" in California, Mervyn Dymally represented California's 31st congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1981 until 1993. Born in Trinidad, Representative Dymally was the first foreign-born member of Congress to serve in the United States.
While in Congress, Mr. Dymally won assignments on the Foreign Affairs, District of Columbia, and Science and Technology committees. In the 99th Congress (1983–1985), Dymally left his post on Science and Technology for a seat on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. He served on that panel, Foreign Affairs, and the District of Columbia until he retired in 1993. For a single term in the 99th Congress (1985–1987), Dymally also served on the Education and Labor Committee. In the 100th Congress (1987–1989), he chaired the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Dymally told the Los Angeles Times in 1988, "I have an obligation as a Third World person. I make no excuses. I do have a very keen interest in the Third World. We do not live in just 50 states. We contribute significant sums of taxpayer money in the Third World."
As chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Operations, Dymally became a leading spokesperson on human rights and economic development, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. He was an outspoken critic of apartheid in South Africa and advocated imposing sanctions against the minority-white government. Dymally also emphasized the necessity of economic development. As a member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Dymally made numerous trips to Africa and pushed the committee to focus on a wider spectrum of issues from "human relations to trade."
Mr. Dymally observed while speaking to the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper, "Most African countries are moving toward democracy and there is an absence of trade between Africa and African Americans, in particular, and America, in general. We've been building up a network and trying to convince Africans about the importance of trade. It is proper to want to get Africans out of jail. But, I want to get them out of poverty, too."
In addition to his career in Congress, Mr. Dymally served in the California State Assembly, California State Senate, and as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California.