Ronald V. Dellums

(In Memoriam 1935-2018)
Ron Dellums served as a Founding Advisor to CELIE. We celebrate his life and contributions.

An Oakland native, Ron grew up on Wood Street in West Oakland, attended Oakland schools and graduated from Oakland Tech, Merritt College (AA), San Francisco State (BA), and University of California Berkeley (MSW). Ron served two years active duty in the United States Marine Corps.

Following graduate school, Ron worked as a psychiatric social worker for the California Department of Mental Hygiene. He then directed various programs in Bayview/Hunters Point before becoming Director of the Hunters Point Youth Opportunity Center. Subsequently, he served as Director of employment programs for the SF Poverty program and then Senior Consultant on manpower programs for Social Dynamics Inc., a leading Bay Area consulting firm.

In 1967, he was elected to the Berkeley City Council and in 1970 to the US House of Representatives. He represented Oakland, Berkeley, and surrounding areas, in the Congress for 28 years, rising to become Chair of the House DC Committee and then Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Initially elected in opposition to the Vietnam War, Ron became a recognized expert in military and foreign policy. He became the leading Congressional voice challenging the underlying assumptions of the military budget and brought forth annual alternative military and full U.S. (recognized by budget experts, including the Administration’s budget director, as the most honest and accurate proposals under debate.) As important, his leadership resulted in substantially improvements in the working and living conditions of those serving in the military and their families. Despite opposition to US military policies, Ron continually fought to better the conditions of the men and women who were the instrument of these policies.

As Chair of the District of Columbia Committee, Ron converted the committee into the only Congressional committee focused on the problems of cities. The Committee addressed issues facing many urban centers including the unfunded pension liability of city workers, affordable housing, homelessness and mental health, the problems of urban infant mortality, the negative impacts on local tax bases of public and non-profit development (hospitals, universities, etc.), and the financial inability of city governments to finance adequate and appropriate urban services for their residents.

From his first days in Congress, he authored bills to withhold support from the Apartheid South African regime and it was the Dellums bill that passed the House and made divestment US national policy with Congress over-riding a Reagan presidential veto. This divestment pressure helped the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to win the release of Nelson Mandela and his election as President of a democratic South Africa. He also was a leader on the environment, labor, consumer issues, and civil rights and often was acknowledged by many national groups as having a perfect voting record.

After leaving Congress, Ron served as President of an international management company and a leading spokesman on the tragedy of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the world. He was Chair of President Clinton’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, and chaired the Dellums Commission on African American males. [Delete “Mayor Dellums”] Ron was sworn in as the 48th mayor of Oakland, California on Monday, January 8, 2007.