SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil and human rights organization, mourns the passing of former California lawmaker Mervyn Dymally.
Dymally, who passed away in Los Angeles on Sunday at the age of 86, was known for being a strong supporter of redress for Japanese Americans when the movement for reparations was under way in the 1980s.
His political career began in the California Assembly in 1962 and he was the first African American to be elected a senator in the Golden State. He served as lieutenant governor and holds the distinction of being the first and only African American to hold that position. He was later elected to the U.S. Congress representing the city of Gardena, which was heavily populated by Japanese Americans.
It was during this time that Dymally made a visit to the Manzanar concentration camp, learned more about the redress movement, and became an important advocate. He held numerous meetings with Japanese Americans and testified at congressional hearings in support of the redress bill. He secured the support of the Congressional Black Caucus for redress legislation and devoted time to lobbying for its passage.
JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida said, “We are saddened by the passing of Rep. Mervyn Dymally, whose life exemplified breaking down racial barriers in society, which barred full participation by all Americans, and who was an advocate and partner of the Japanese American community at a time when a respected voice like his was needed to advance the cause of justice.”
JACL National President David Lin added, “Our community has lost a friend and our nation has lost a human being whose life was dedicated to public service and the principles of civil rights and equality. The JACL expresses its deepest condolences to his family.”
Dymally is survived by his wife, Alice; son, Mark; and daughter, Lynn.