Roybal, dean of Hispanic leaders in Los Angeles, dead at 89
By Christina Almeida
LOS ANGELES – Edward R. Roybal, who spent his political career, including
three decades in Congress, fighting for minorities, the poor and the elderly,
has died. He was 89.
When elected to the House of Representatives in 1962, Roybal was the first Hispanic from California to serve in Congress since 1879. Roybal, who also served more than a decade on the Los Angeles City Council, died Monday night of respiratory failure complicated by pneumonia at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, according to a spokeswoman for his daughter, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised Roybal as a champion for civil rights and social justice.
"Edward Roybal served as a symbol of Latino hopes and dreams," the mayor said.
Born Feb. 10, 1916, in Albuquerque, N.M., Roybal moved to the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles at the age of 6. After studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Southwestern University, he served in the Army during World War II.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1945, Roybal worked as the director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association.
Following an unsuccessful bid for City Council in 1947, he created the Community Service Organization, launching an effort against housing, employment and education discrimination.
On Tuesday, Villaraigosa praised the organization as beginning "one of the most dramatic grassroots movements in the history of Los Angeles."
The organization held voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts in East Los Angeles and supported Roybal's second, and successful, run for City Council in 1949.
In Congress, Roybal served on various committees, including foreign and veterans affairs. In 1967, he is credited with writing the first bilingual education bill to provide schools with assistance for special bilingual teaching programs.
Roybal in 1976 was one of the founding members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
"Ed Roybal was, in every sense, a gifted public servant. He was a trailblazer and icon of the Latino community. He paved the way to political power for today's Latino elected officials," Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said.
In 1978, Roybal was reprimanded by the House for accepting a $1,000 gift from South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park.
In the 1980s, he served as chair of the Select Committee on Aging, leading the campaign for the restoration of funds for senior programs. He also worked for the establishment of a national mental health education program.
"The congressman was a true barrier breaker and a political legend, particularly in the Mexican-American community," Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said.
It was Roybal who swore in Molina, the first Hispanic member of the board in more than a century, in 1991.
"I and so many from my generation were touched deeply by the leadership of this man," Molina said. "He inspired so many of us to do unbelievable things on behalf of the residents we served."
In 1976, Los Angeles County opened the Edward R. Roybal Clinic in East Los Angeles. The federal building is also named after him. He chose not to run for re-election in 1992. That year his daughter was elected to Congress, where she represents part of her father's old district.
Along with his daughter, Roybal is survived by his wife, Lucille Beserra-Roybal, son Edward Roybal Jr. and daughter Lillian Roybal-Rose.
Flags at all city and county buildings were lowered to half-staff Tuesday. Services were pending.