The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
“When I went on Armed Services Committee as the first black person, that was important to knock that barrier down so that race is not a factor. It’s like when Martin Luther King stood up and opposed the Vietnam War, where people said, ‘Wait a minute. You’re a civil rights leader. Why are you raising your voice about national security matters? That’s not your business.’ Well, my going on the Armed Services Committee, in one sense, said, ‘Yes, it was our business, and we’re here.’ That was an important part of it. But my going there also was a larger human question, which was the role of non-intervention, the role of peace, the role of arms control, the role of appropriate priorities in our society.”
—The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, April 19, 2012

Abstract & Transcript

U.S. Representative from California (January 3, 1971-February 6, 1998)

First elected to Congress in 1970, Ronald V. Dellums embodied the activist spirit of his northern California district during his 14 terms in the House. In his first interview, Dellums explains why an antiwar Representative would seek a spot on the Armed Services Committee and how he and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) devised a successful plan to overcome the objections of the influential Chairman F. Edward Hébert. As the first African American to serve on Armed Services, Dellums talks about the historic milestone and how he worked to earn the respect and support of his colleagues. He continued to break barriers in the House serving as the first African-American chairman of Armed Services during the 103rd Congress (1993–1995). Dellums speaks about his rise to committee chair, his leadership style, and the portrait commissioned commemorating his historic chairmanship. Dellums also provides details on how he selected an artist, the reactions to the portrait, and the personal significance of having his likeness painted and hung in the halls of the House.

Throughout his career Dellums played a leading role in the anti-apartheid movement in Congress. In his second interview he describes his early involvement in the push for U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa, including getting arrested during a peaceful protest at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC. Dellums worked closely with the CBC to apply legislative pressure on the South African government to end apartheid. He offers a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how he skillfully shepherded a sanctions bill through the House that few thought had a chance to pass. The California Congressman also recalls the first time he met Nelson Mandela and how he had the privilege of escorting the anti-apartheid activist and first president of the new democratic government of South Africa onto the House Floor for a Joint Session of Congress.

Biography

DELLUMS, Ronald V., a Representative from California; born in Oakland, Alameda County, Calif., November 24, 1935; attended the Oakland public schools; A.A., Oakland City College, 1958; B.A., San Francisco State College, 1960; M.S.W., University of California, 1962; served two years in United States Marine Corps, active duty, 1954–1956; psychiatric social worker, California Department of Mental Hygiene, 1962–1964; program director, Bayview Community Center, 1964–1965; associate director, then director, Hunters Point Youth Opportunity Center, 1965–1966; planning consultant, Bay Area Social Planning Council, 1966–1967; director, Concentrated Employment Program, San Francisco Economic Opportunity Council, 1967–1968; senior consultant, Social Dynamics, Inc. (manpower specialization programs), 1968–1970; part-time lecturer, San Francisco State College, University of California, and Berkeley Graduate School of Social Welfare; member, Berkeley City Council, 1967–1970; delegate to Democratic National Convention, 1972; elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-second and to the thirteen succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1971–February 6, 1998); chairman, Committee on District of Columbia (Ninety-sixth through One Hundred Second Congresses), Committee on Armed Services (One Hundred Third Congress); served from January 3, 1971, until his resignation on February 6, 1998; Mayor of Oakland, Calif., 2007–2011; died on July 30, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Read full biography

Video

Representing the 1960s

Representative Dellums discusses representing the diverse movements coming out of the Bay Area in the 1960s.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Bringing the Human Family Together

Representative Dellums recounts his experience of becoming the first African American to represent a majority-white district.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

First African-American Member on the House Armed Services Committee

Representative Dellums describes an important meeting with Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma, and his historic appointment to the House Armed Services Committee.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Sharing a Chair on the First Day

Representative Dellums recalls the unusual circumstances he and Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado faced on their first day on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Consequences of Historic Appointment

Representative Dellums reflects on how his appointment to the House Armed Services Committee affected the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Changes During the 94th Congress

Representative Dellums describes the impact of the Watergate scandal on Congress.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Chairmen and Seniority

Representative Dellums shares memories of his ascension to chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Anti-Apartheid Movement in the House

Representative Dellums recalls the early days of the anti-apartheid movement in the House.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

The Dellums Amendment: Part One

Representative Dellums provides background on the passage of his amendment calling for U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

The Dellums Amendment: Part Two

Representative Dellums reflects on the possible impact of the passage of his measure for U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa in 1986.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

The Dellums Amendment: Part Three

Representative Dellums describes the “highest point” in his political life.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Getting Arrested for the Cause

Representative Dellums remembers the protests by House Members outside the South African Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Meeting President Nelson Mandela

Representative Dellums shares his memories of his first meeting President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded June 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Selecting an Artist

Representative Dellums recalls the process of choosing an artist for his portrait.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Reactions to the Portrait

Representative Dellums recounts the reactions to his portrait.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Sense of Pride

Representative Dellums reflects on the personal importance of his portrait.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Ronald V. Dellums
<i>Ronald V. Dellums</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_picture.xml
Representative Dellums served fourteen terms in the U.S. House.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
"Dollars for Dellums" Lapel Pin
<i>"Dollars for Dellums" Lapel Pin</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_dollars.xml
Dellums won the 1970 general election with 57 percent of the vote to become one of the first African Americans to represent a majority-white congressional district. This pin is from that campaign.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Black Lawmakers in Congress Fan, 1971
<i>Black Lawmakers in Congress Fan, 1971</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_fan.xml
Communities celebrated the number of African Americans in Congress with these fans, used in churches and at parades. Congressman Dellums and his fellow black lawmakers are printed on one side, and an advertisement on the other.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Ronald V. Dellums Baseball Card
<i>Ronald V. Dellums Baseball Card</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_baseball.xml
Congressman Dellums participated in the 1973 Congressional Baseball Game on the Democratic team. The Republicans won the game 12-4.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
"Re-Elect Dellums" Lapel Pin 
<i>"Re-Elect Dellums" Lapel Pin </i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_reelect.xml
Representative Dellums' reelection campaign used this pin in 1974.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Congressional Black Caucus
<i>Congressional Black Caucus</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_cbc.xml
In 1977, 15 of the Congressional Black Caucus members posed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, from left to right: (front row) Barbara Jordan of Texas, Robert Nix, Sr., of Pennsylvania, Ralph Metcalfe of Illinois, Cardiss Collins of Illinois, Parren Mitchell of Maryland, Gus Hawkins of California, Shirley Chisholm of New York; (middle row) John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan, Charles Rangel of New York, Harold Ford, Sr., of Tennessee, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California, Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia; (back row) Ronald Dellums of California, Louis Stokes of Ohio, and Charles C. Diggs, Jr., of Michigan.
Image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration
"Ron Dellums Our Congressman" Lapel Pin 
<i>"Ron Dellums Our Congressman" Lapel Pin </i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_ourcongressman.xml
Representative Dellums was reelected to the House 13 times and used this pin in one of his reelection campaigns.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Ronald V. Dellums 
<i>Ronald V. Dellums </i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_dellums_armedservices.xml
Congressman Dellums was the first African American on the Armed Services Committee and its chair in the 103rd Congress (1993-1995). In his oral history, he describes how the artist used a photo and a magnifying glass to intricately detail his hand.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object