Washington, DC – For more than 50 years, Mervyn Dymally was a recognized force for good in state and national politics. The Trinidad-born trailblazer was the first foreign born Caribbean American to serve in the US Congress. He rose through legislative circles to become California’s highest-ranking black politician.
Institute for Caribbean Stugies (ICS) President Dr. Claire Nelson described Dymally as an ‘iconic figure.’
“He fought for justice and equality for all people and served as a great role model for the next generation. His success is a testament to the integration of Caribbean Americans into the American landscape and their contributions to the political and social fabric of the U.S.”
A self-described civil rights champion, Dymally was first elected as a California assemblyman in 1962, just when Trinidad became independent. He rose to become the state’s first black state senator in 1966 and its first and only black lieutenant governor in 1974. In 1980, he won a congressional seat representing Compton and its surrounding area, one of the most solidly Democratic bastions in Los Angeles County.
In Congress, he served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was a stalwart for disenfranchised people and struggling communities at home and abroad. He championed economic and humanitarian aid for Africa as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He retired from Congress in 1992 but re-entered state politics at 76, winning the same Assembly seat he held at the start of his political career.
According to Nancy Pelosi, “Merv knew how to build a political network better than nearly anyone. 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.”
ICS celebrates the life of a Caribbean American trailBlazer, who has helped paved the way for our collective success since 1962.