Ron Dellums enjoyed a long career as a U.S. Congressman before serving as Oakland’s third Black mayor. Dellums retired from Congress on this day in 1998.
Ronald Vernie Dellums was born November 24, 1935 in Oakland, California. His father was a longshoreman and Pullman porter, and his uncle was a labor organizer.
After being denied a college scholarship, Dellums went into the United States Marines and obtained a G.I. Bill to attend San Francisco State College, earning his B.A. in 1960. He then obtained a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley, working as a social worker and instructor at both his alma maters.
The Alpha Phi Alpha man was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 1967. In 1970, he became the first African-American from Northern California elected to Congress, representing the 9th District. As an open socialist, Dellums’ radical politics and anti-war stance placed him on President Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List.”
He gained a reputation as a fiery orator from his positions on apartheid and war. In 1990, he and 44 other Congress members sued then President George H.W. Bush to halt military building in Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion.
After Dellums’ resigned from Congress in 1997, Rep. Barbara Lee filled his seat in the 9th District before it was rezoned as the 13th District. Dellums originally said he wanted to focus on other things besides politics, but instead became Oakland’s mayor in 2007. He tenure as mayor was fraught with criticism and when it was over, he left politics for good.
In 2000, his autobiography, Lying Down with the Lions: A Public Life from the Streets of Oakland to the Halls of Power was published.
Now 82, Dellums has been married three times and has eight children and stepchildren. One is the actor Erik Dellums.