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Edward Ross "Ed" Roybal (February 10, 1916 – October 24, 2005) was an Americanmarker politician. He served for thirty years as a Democratic representative of the 30th and later the 25th districts of Californiamarker, and was a member of the Los Angeles City Council for thirteen years.

Early life

Roybal was born into a Hispanic family that traced its roots in Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker back hundreds of years, to the Roybals who settled the area prior to the founding of Santa Femarker. In 1922, a railroad strike prevented his father from being able to work, and Roybal moved with his family to the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heightsmarker, where he attended local public schools, graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1933. After graduation, Roybal joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program that provided him with an experience that both reflected and reinforced his developing commitment to public service. After serving in the CCC, Roybal attended the University of California, Los Angelesmarker, and later studied law at Southwestern University.

In 1942, Roybal began work as a public educator with the California Tuberculosis Association. His work there, however, was interrupted by a stint in the Army, where he worked as an accountant for an infantry unit. Upon returning home, he began work as director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association, a position he held until 1949.

Local politics

In 1947, Roybal decided to run for the 9th District Seat of the Los Angeles City Council, then held by Parley Parker Christensen. The district, which included Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Civic Centermarker, Chinatown, Little Tokyomarker, and the Central Avenue corridor, was then 45% White, 34% Latino, 15% African American, and 6% "other" residents. Roybal, unable to secure a large enough portion of the vote from outside the Latino community to overcome Christianson's support across ethnic lines and from organized labor in particular, lost the election. In 1949, Roybal teamed with local organizer Fred Ross and a group of people who had supported his earlier campaign to form the Community Service Organization (CSO), which tied together a variety of religious, political, and organized labor groups to fight local discrimination. The organization, which organized get-out-the-vote drives, did not explicitly endorse candidates, but Roybal's presence as president of the organization and the personal endorsements of many of its members helped form a groundswell of support that contributed to Roybal's victory. In 1960 Roybal helped organize the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and served as its first president from 1960 to 1962.

Taking office in 1949, Roybal began a long career in public office; he served as councilman from 1949 to 1962 and was president pro-tempore in his last term. As councilman, he became a figure of great importance, particularly on issues facing the local Latino community. Most famously, he opposed the land swap that allowed for Dodger Stadiummarker to be built in the largely Mexican-American community of Chavez Ravine. He was also critical of House Un-American Activities Committee and the politics of McCarthyism, voting against the Subversive Registration Bill, which required written loyalty oaths. After his departure, the City Council went 23 years without a Latino until Richard Alatorre's election in 1985.

National politics and later life

During his time in the City Council, Roybal, as a prominent young Democrat, received encouragement to run for higher office. In 1954, he lost an effort to become Lieutenant Governor. Running in 1958 against Ernest Debs for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Roybal lost a bitterly-contested election in which he held a slim lead on election night, but lost after four recounts gave the election to Debs, fueling suspicions of voter fraud. Despite this, Roybal ran for Congress in 1962, winning election in the 25th District, an area that included his native Boyle Heights, the larger East Los Angeles area, Downtownmarker, and parts of Hollywoodmarker. Beginning his term in 1963, he became the first Latino Congressperson from California since the 1879 election of Romualdo Pacheco.

As Congressman, Roybal was generally known for a low-key legislative style. In his first term, he served on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and the Post Office Committee. In his next term, he served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and on the Veteran's Affairs Committee.

Beginning in 1971, he served on the House Appropriations Committee for more than two decades and authored a number of bills, many of which were not universally popular, which offered support for groups he saw as disenfranchised; many of his actions were on behalf of veterans, the elderly, and Mexican-Americans. In 1967 he wrote the first bill giving federal support to bilingual education, creating specialized language instruction for immigrant populations. As Chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, he led a successful campaign to restore $15 million in funding the low-cost health programs for senior citizens and an expanded public housing program for seniors. In 1982 he worked to preserve the Meals on Wheels program and veterans' preferences in hiring. In the early 1980s, against the wishes of many of his own constituents, he argued for expanded funding for AIDS research.

In 1976 he became a founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and later co-founded the [(National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials)] (NALEO). In 1986, as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he led the unsuccessful opposition to the Simpson-Mazzoli Act.

In 1978, Roybal was involved in a vote-buying scheme, known as the Koreagate scandal, in which he admitted to lying to the House Ethics Committee about accepting a $1,000 gift from a South Korean lobbyist, Tongsun Park. After requests by Hispanic leaders and testimony from the other two Representatives accused — Ronald Dellums and Phillip Burton — the potential censure was reduced to a reprimand (the same sanction given the other two Representatives involved). Undeterred, he ran for reelection the same year and won 70% of the vote.

Roybal retired in 1993 after thirty years in office. That year, following redistricting, his daughter Lucille Roybal-Allard became the Representative for the 33rd District, which contained part of Roybal's district, while Xavier Becerra, with Roybal's endorsement, won election in 30th District, which included much of the remaining territory of Roybal's former 25th District.

At the time of his death, more buildings in Los Angeles were named after him than any other single person. Among the buildings named for Roybal are the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, located in what had been his home district in California, and the main campus of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgiamarker. California State University, Los Angelesmarker is home to the Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology.

After retiring from Congress, Roybal lived the rest of his life in Pasadena, Californiamarker as one of the deans of local and national politics, endorsing several candidates in elections throughout the region.

He died at the age of 89 at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena of respiratory failure complicated by pneumonia.


On March 25, 2008, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to name Central Los Angeles High School #11 (formerly Belmont Learning Center) as Edward R. Roybal Learning Center. The school opened on September 3, 2008.

Every February, on occasion of Congressman Edward R. Roybal's date of birth, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) hosts the Edward R. Roybal Legacy Gala [165541] in Washington, DC as a tribute to the many contributions the late Congressman made to the nation, to NALEO and to the NALEO Educational Fund, of which he is Founder Emeritus.

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