Ed Roybal

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Ed Roybal


Ed Roybal was a Los Angeles based Congressman.

He was the father of current congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and mentor to Congressman Xavier Becerra

"Community organizer"

Writing in the Huffington Post of September 8, 2008, in an article entitled "From Organizer To Elected Official" Democratic Socialists of America member Peter Dreier listed several former US politicians who had begun their careers as "community organizers". They were late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, the late Ed Roybal (California's first Latino member of Congress, elected in 1963), former mayors Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh and Andrew Young of Atlanta, Bev Stein, former chair of Multnomah County in greater Portland, Oregon, former Connecticut Secretary of State Miles Rapoport, former state legislators Gonzalo Barrientos of Texas and John McDonough of Massachusetts, and the late Sally Shipman, an Austin City Council member. [1]

Political loyalties

Ed Roybal went to UCLA in the thirties, a later alumnus,former L.A. Controller Rick Tuttle, tells that Roybal lived in student Coop housing there with Tom Bradley (later L.A. Mayor) and George Brown (a leading peace advocate in Congress). In the mid sixties Brown (who then represented part of East L.A.) was among the first two to vote against the Vietnam War, the next vote Roybal and a few others joined in. Roybal also was key in winning Latino Votes for Bradleys successful mayoral campaign in 1973. [2]

CSO and Council races

The 1948 presidential election was a turning point in American politics. The convulsions within the Los Angeles Democratic Party including the movement of some labor, left, and minority coalition members into the Independent Progressive Party, led by President Roosevelt?s second vice president, the Spanish-speaking Henry A. Wallace coincided with the most dramatic grassroots movement in the history of the city: the Mexican-American-oriented Community Services Organization.

CSO, under the leadership of president Ed Roybal and organizer Fred Ross, and with the financial backing of independent radical Saul Alinsky, recruited 1,000 members and registered 15,000 new voters in the Latino sections of Boyle Heights, Belvedere, and East Los Angeles. Sensing an electoral opportunity, the Progressive Party recruited and ran two CSO members for office and brought Wallace to the nearby Lincoln Heights Stadium where he addressed 10,000 Latinos in Spanish.

The district, particularly the Boyle Heights section, was a cauldron of leftist political activity, residents radicalized by events in their home countries (including the Russian Revolution and the Mexican Revolution) and by the upsurge in political and labor activism during the Great Depression. This included various shades of New Deal liberals as well as Communists, Socialists, Trotskyists, Wobblies, and radicals too independent to follow any party line.

The incumbent city councilman, Parley P. Christensen, was like most Angelinos of the day: born somewhere else. An Idaho native educated in New York, he had served as a Unitarian in the Utah State Legislature. He became a national figure on the left in 1920 as the presidential candidate of the Farmer-Labor Party (which was particularly strong in the Midwest and in the 1930s elected the governor in Minnesota). In Los Angeles, Christensen successfully used ideology and support from organized labor to cut across ethnic and racial lines to maintain a progressive coalition.

There was increasing frustration with Christensen among members of his political base, however, because Christensen had missed a significant number of city council votes. The Los Angeles City Division of the California Legislative Conference, which was close to the Communist Party-led Los Angeles Industrial Union Council (CIO Council), and to comrades in Hollywood and various minority communities, expressed their frustration with their one-line hero.

The person best situated to challenge Councilman Christensen was CSO president Edward R. Roybal. At 31, he seemed older and more established than most other World War II veterans. Roybal was born in Albuquerque to a family that traced its roots back some 400 years to the founding of Santa Fe. His parents had came to Boyle Heights in 1922 to start a new life following a railroad strike that left Roybal?s father unemployed.

Roybal graduated from Roosevelt High School, joined the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps, and attended the University of California at Los Angeles. He worked for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association and targeted the epidemic level of TB prevalent among Mexican Americans. Roybal, his wife, and two children lived in "the flats" on the southern edge of Boyle Heights.

More important than Roybal's personal story was the movement he now headed. Over the course of 18-months, CSO had created the first broad-based organization within the Mexican-American community. CSO was near the center of the liberal-left ideological spectrum in the district, and had established ties to organized labor, the Catholic Church, the Jewish community, and to individuals in both the Democratic and Progressive parties. CSO benefited enormously from the steady hand, adroit skills, and tireless efforts of Fred Ross, who was proving to be one of the best organizers of his generation.

Ross grew up in Los Angeles where he served as a Junior Minister in his Methodist Church. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he had managed a camp for dustbowl migrants outside of Bakersfield, and later worked with Japanese Americans as part of the War Relocation Authority. Ross then went to work out of the Los Angeles office of the American Council for Race Relations, which was formed to ameliorate racial tensions following the Zoot Suit riots. There he began to organize Latinos into Unity Leagues in a number of rural areas, before Saul Alinsky, head of the Chicago-based Industrial Areas Foundation, hired him away to help the upstart CSO.

Thanks in large measure to Ross, CSO and Roybal had deftly navigated the divisive 1948 elections. While Roybal and other members of the leadership made "personal" endorsements, CSO stayed above the partisan wrangling by focusing on two highly effective get-out-the-vote drives. In the process, CSO activists developed valuable campaign skills and inculcated the newly registered Mexican Americans with the value and habit of voting.

Roybal maintained his base with the steel and garment unions and the Catholic Church, as well as selectively worked with the leftist CIO Council and the third party. CSO used the final months of the 1948 presidential campaign to enhance its financial stability and establish new alliances. The affiliation with Saul Alinsky provided an enormous asset because CSO had begun its second year in existence without funds. The money for Ross? first year salary and that of CSO secretary Carmen Medina were already depleted.

True to form, Alinsky pushed this negative into a positive. He used one of his periodic trips to Los Angeles to approach the self-made businessmen and Hollywood stars who shared his progressive politics and Jewish heritage. This group socialized at the Hillcrest Country Club near Beverly Hills. Alinsky?s initial contact in the group was Harry Braverman who had served on the Grand Jury that investigated the wartime treatment of Latino youth. Braverman sent Alinsky to Seniel Ostrow. Ostrow, the son of a garment worker, owned the Sealy Mattress franchise in California, Nevada, and Arizona, and served as a generous patron of liberal and left causes.

About the same time, CSO reached out to the Jewish Community Relations Committee, whose executive director, Fred Herzberg, sat on the CSO Mexican-American Project Advisory Committee, and on which International Ladies Garment Workers Union allies held key posts. "The Community Service Organization could help by modifying the more aggressive attitudes of some minorities and by securing the majority?s respect for them," according to the meeting minutes. Developing a working relationship with the Mexican American community would reduce "the implicit danger of nationalism" and help insurance against the targeting of Jews during the next "economic crisis."

Roybal officially made the transition from CSO president to candidate for the 9th district city council seat. He made the announcement at a CSO meeting in late January 1949 attended by 300 members.

The change in officers and Roybal/s announcement received some coverage in the local press. "Mr. Nava replaces former chairman, Mr. Edward R. Roybal, who in declining renomination, announced his candidacy for the 9th ouncilmanic District, which prohibited him from accepting office in this non-political, civic improvement organization," wrote the Belvedere Citizen. Despite the good press, the political reality was that Roybal's strength was illusory.

The campaign enjoyed strong leadership and institutional relationships with key sectors of the community. Latino steelworker Balt Yanez was named campaign chair, further integrating the union into the campaign, and emblematic of the nexus of two important constituency groups. Two Anglo Americans played pivotal behind the scenes roles. Former reporter and veteran political operative Roger Johnson agreed again to serve as campaign manager, and to oversee such fundamentals as organization, endorsements, fundraising, and press. Fred Ross took the lead in running a voter registration drive and setting up the structure necessary to ensure a nearly complete turnout by CSO registered voters, whose names he kept on 3 x 5 inch cards in a shoe box. Roybal met with groups, walked precincts, and raised money. His daughter Lucille, then seven, recalls that much of the campaign, including mailing parties, seemed to run out of the Roybal home.[3]

Communist help

Communist Party USA member Bert Corona helped elect the first Los Angeles Chicano city councilman, Ed Roybal.[4]

In the 1940s, Communist Party USA member Harry Hay taught at the California Labor School and worked on domestic campaigns such as campaigning for Ed Roybal, the first Latino elected in Los Angeles.

David Bacon met Coleman Persily, because they were both friends of Bert Corona, the founder of our modern immigrant rights movement. In the 50s Persily and Bert Corona helped run the campaign for Ed Roybal, the first Chicano elected to Congress from California since 1879. That was a harbinger of the end of the Yorty years, of the hatred of Latinos seen in the Zoot Suit riots and the Sleepy Lagoon prosecution, and of LA's reputation as the home of the Open Shop. As we know today, much bigger political changes were to come, and people like Henry and Coleman helped set the stage. Coleman went on to help organize the Canal Street Alliance, which today is Marin County's main immigrant rights organization.[5]

Cannon connection

As a member of the Communist Party USA, Oneil Cannon became the education director in the Southern California District, and a member of the Party’s Southern California and National Central Committees.

Cannon was committed to electing Black and Latino representatives at all levels of government. He helped to elect Augustus Hawkins, Tom Bradley, Ed Roybal, Diane Watson, Maxine Waters, and Karen Bass.

Cannon campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008, and wept with joy along with millions of others when he was elected. He died peacefully, wearing one of his Obama T-shirts.[6]

MAPA

In 1959 Ed Roybal, Communist Party USA member Bert Corona and Eduardo Quevedo met in Fresno to form the Mexican American Political Association.[7]

Californians for Liberal Representation

Californians for Liberal Representation arrived on the Los Angeles political scene in 1962. It was founded by mostly white, middle-class, liberally minded, anti-war advocates. They coalesced around the issue of the Vietnam War and their first major fundraising campaign in 1962 helped elect Edward Roybal and George Brown, two anti-war Congressmen. Some of the early members of the organization include Arthur Carstens (Chairman), Maurice Weiner (Executive Director), Jack Berman (Coordinator) and Eleanor "Elly" Wagner (Administrative Secretary). The board consisted of activists from the broad spectrum of Los Angeles political life and included members from organizations such as the ACLU, community religious leaders, and entertainers such as Steve Allen. [8]

Vietnam protester

Congressman Ed Roybal, journalists Ruben Salazar, Francisca Flores and Enriqueta Vasquez, and activists Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Corky Gonzales, Reies Tijerina and Bert Corona, were all early Latino protesters against the Vietnam War.[9]

CES event

On June 3, 1975, Coalition for Economic Survival honored Rep. Parren Mitchell, at a banquet at the Airport Hyatt Inn, Los Angeles. Mitchell was being honored because of his Transfer Amendment - which would redirect several billion from military to social spending.

CES chair Rev. Al Dortch presided. Sharing the podium with Mitchell were William Robertson, exec secretary of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, and Humberto Comacho of the United Electrical Workers.

Ruth Yanatta, newly elected Santa Monica councilor and CES founder, was also an honored guest.

Assemblywomen Maxine Waters also presented an award from the state legislative black caucus, to Mitchell and CES.

Honorary co-chairs of the event included Ed Asner, former US rep Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, US reps John Conyers and Ed Roybal, and actor John Randolph.[10]

"National Day Of Protest Against The Bakke Decision"

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The "National Day Of Protest Against The Bakke Decision" was held Saturday October 8, 1977" with rallies in Oakland, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.. Oakland speakers were Maria Abadesco, National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision (MC); John George, Alameda County Supervisor MC); Harry Edwards, U.C. Berkeley Sociology Professor; Hazaiah Williams, President, Center for Urban/Black Studies Graduate Theological Union, Josie Camacho, Lee Brightman, Rep. Ed Ed Roybal, Lorenzo Carlyle, Aileen Hernandez, Gilberto Mendoza.

Organised by the October 8th Coalition.

Communist connection

At one time Communist Party USA leader Rosalio Munoz organized a picket of Roybal;[11]

In a bill that added rights for immigrant workers he included provisions to use the Social Security card for I.D. purposes. A few of us in an immigration coalition protested. He responded with a meeting with us including broader forces. He also invited pioneer African American Congressman Augustus Hawkins to join in. In effect Roybal explained that immigration was one of the more racist federal departments and to get even small positive action took compromise, and that often usually perfunctory request for cooperaton from him were ignored. Hawkins corroborated the discrimination. I still objected to the provision but recognized the context of his action.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus was organized in 1976 by five Hispanic Congressmen: Herman Badillo (NY), Baltasar Corrada del Río (PR), Kika de la Garza (TX), Henry B. Gonzalez (TX) and Ed Roybal (CA), to serve as a legislative organization through which legislative action, as well as executive and judicial actions, could be monitored to ensure the needs of Hispanics were being met. It was staffed by Raquel Marquez Frankel, who had grown up in Silver City and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had become, in 1947, the first Latina to attend the University of New Mexico School of Law.[12]

Relationship to Xavier Becerra

Congressman Ed Roybal represented the people of California’s 30th Congressional District from 1963 to 1993. Upon his retirement, Roybal supported then-Assemblymember Xavier Becerra for election to the 30th Congressional District seat. "The two have been close ever since, the elder statesman serving as both friend and mentor to his successor".[13]

Chicano movement

The 40th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of the Chicano Moratoriums was formed in the summer 2009 by the Chair of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee of August 29, 1970 along with two independent Chicano Movement historians whom although not of the baby boomer generation, have become inspired by the Movimiento. The organization posted a list of significant “Chicano movement” activists on its website which included Ed Roybal.[14]

References