LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mervyn Dymally, who in a four-decade career served in every corner of California government and eventually became the state’s highest-ranking black politician, was honored at a funeral Wednesday attended by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the elite of California state government.
Dymally, who was born on the eastern Caribbean island of Trinidad, died Oct. 7 in Los Angeles after a period of declining health. He had mentored generations of Democratic politicians while helping expand the state’s base of black voters.
Dymally became California’s first foreign-born black assemblyman in 1962, its first black state senator in 1966 and its first and only black lieutenant governor in 1974. He won a congressional seat in 1980, representing Compton and its surrounding area, one of the most solidly Democratic bastions in Los Angeles County.
But scandal followed success throughout Dymally’s career, including numerous allegations of fraud, bribery and pay-for-play campaign contributions. He maintained that he never acted illegally and said in a 1976 op-ed piece that he had been the victim of “sustained harassment and distortion.”
Gov. Jerry Brown, who attended Wednesday’s service, credited Dymally with improving the lives of Californians, “particularly those burdened by racial, gender or ethnic discrimination.” He issued a proclamation declaring Wednesday “Mervyn Dymally Day.”
“He championed the cause of civil rights and broke new ground,” wrote Brown, who called Dymally an “outstanding mentor, organizer and leader.”
Jackson, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kamala Harris were among a long list of prominent politicians who attended the Culver City service.
Dymally retired from the House of Representatives in 1993. In 2002, he returned to the California Legislature at age 76, winning the same Assembly seat where he had started his career four decades earlier, and serving six more years.