Former Rep. Mervyn Dymally, a six-term Democratic Member from Los Angeles County who also served as California’s lieutenant governor, died Sunday at age 86.
He was well-known in the House as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1987 to 1989.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Dymally came to the United States to attend college, becoming involved in politics after reaching California. He served in the state Legislature starting in the 1963 and as lieutenant governor in the 1970s under fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, who is the governor once again. In that capacity, Dymally was the first black statewide-elected official in the state’s history.
He was elected to Congress in 1980 after winning a Democratic primary with the support of two local political heavyweights — Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Henry Waxman.
Dymally retired from the House in 1993, eventually bringing his political career full circle by returning to the California state Legislature.
On Congressional policy matters, Dymally devoted much of his attention to foreign policy. He pushed for economic sanctions on South Africa to help bring about the end of apartheid and worked on other human rights issues as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Operations, notes a lengthy profile maintained by the House Clerk’s office.
News of Dymally’s passing came through a statement from his wife, Alice Gueno Dymally.
“My beloved husband of 44 years passed away very peacefully this morning at 6:30 a.m.,” she said, according to CBS Los Angeles.
“He lived a very extraordinary life and had no regrets,” she added.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement remembering Dymally as a “force in California and national politics.”
“Merv knew how to build a political network better than nearly anyone,” Pelosi said. “He opened doors for the next generation of minority leaders. He remained committed to public service for his entire life, serving not just as an elder statesman but a public official well into his eighties.”