Born in Cedros, Trinidad, Mervyn Malcolm Dymally rose from humble beginnings to leadership in the United States Congress, paving the way for future generations of minority leaders.
Dymally immigrated to the United States at age 19, inspired to attend college by the life of Booker T. Washington, the 19th century African American educator and presidential advisor. Dymally earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from California State University, Los Angeles; a Master’s Degree in Government from California State University, Sacramento, and a Doctorate in Human Behavior from what is now the Alliant International University in San Diego.
Dr. Dymally began a lifetime of service by teaching students with special needs. He also served as State Treasurer for the Young Democrats and as Field Coordinator for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. In 1963, Dr. Dymally took office as California’s first foreign-born black State Assemblyman, and four years later, he became its first black State Senator. In 1975, he began serving as California’s first black Lieutenant Governor.
Throughout his career, Dr. Dymally worked to improve education and access to healthcare. His efforts in the California State Legislature resulted in the integration of African American history into the public school curriculum. He attained equal property rights for married women and mandated bilingual services for non-English speakers seeking information or assistance from state agencies. He was instrumental in the creation of the California Legislative Black Caucus, the Urban Affairs Institute and the California African American Museum.
Dr. Dymally became the first foreign-born black elected to the United States House of Representatives. For six terms, he worked tirelessly to address injustice and inequality. His efforts included securing redress for Japanese-Americans interned during World War II and citizenship for Filipino veterans. As Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Dr. Dymally established important relations with African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern countries. An outspoken advocate for human rights, he was influential in passing the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act that helped end apartheid in South Africa. He served as an elected official for 34 years.