Mervyn Dymally

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Mervyn Dymally
Mervyn M. Dymally Assembly.jpg
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 53rd district
In office
December 7, 2002 – December 1, 2008
Preceded byCarl Washington
Succeeded byIsadore Hall III
In office
Preceded byMontivel Burke
Succeeded byBill Greene
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 31st district
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byCharles H. Wilson
Succeeded byWalter R. Tucker III (Redistricting)
41st Lieutenant Governor of California
In office
January 6, 1975 – January 8, 1979
GovernorJerry Brown
Preceded byJohn L. Harmer
Succeeded byMike Curb
Member of the California Senate
from the 29th district
In office
January 1967 – January 1975
Preceded byVernon Sturgeon
Succeeded byBill Greene
Personal details
Mervyn Malcolm Dymally

(1926-05-12)May 12, 1926
Cedros, Trinidad and Tobago
DiedOctober 7, 2012(2012-10-07) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Amentha Wilkes
Alice Gueno
EducationLincoln University, Missouri
Chapman University
California State University, Los Angeles (BA)
California State University, Sacramento (MA)
Alliant International University, San Diego (PhD)

Mervyn Malcolm Dymally (May 12, 1926 – October 7, 2012) was a Democratic politician from California. He served in the California State Assembly (1963–66) and the California State Senate (1967–75) as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California (1975–79) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981–93). Dymally returned to politics a decade later to serve in the California State Assembly (2003–08).[1]

Dymally was the first Trinidadian to serve California as State Senator and Lieutenant Governor. He was one of the first persons of African and Indian origin to serve in the U.S. Congress.

In 1974, he and George L. Brown became the first two blacks elected to statewide office since Oscar Dunn did so during Reconstruction.[2]

Dymally was the second African-American to hold statewide office in California, following Wilson Riles who served as California Superintendent of Public Instruction starting in 1971.


Dymally received his secondary education at St. Benedict and Naparima Secondary School located in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.[3]

He moved to the United States to study journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. After a semester there he moved to the greater Los Angeles area to attend Chapman University, and completed a Bachelor of Arts in education at California State University, Los Angeles in 1954.[3] Dymally became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity in 1949.[4]

In 1969, while serving in the California State Legislature, he earned a master's degree in government from California State University, Sacramento. Dymally earned his doctorate in human behavior from United States International University in San Diego (now Alliant International University).[3]


In the tightly contested race for Lt. Governor in 1978, Dymally's bid for re-election was derailed when Michael Franchetti, an aide to State Senator George Deukmejian, floated a false rumor that Dymally was about to be indicted. The story, coming days before the election, harmed the Dymally campaign, and Dymally lost to Republican Mike Curb. Franchetti later said that the source of the rumor was a Los Angeles Times reporter, who called the Justice Department trying to confirm its authenticity. Franchetti could not substantiate the rumor but included it in a report. The report was then passed to Dymally's opponent and later to a television reporter. Then-Attorney General Younger filed a letter of reprimand in Franchetti's personnel records, accusing him of a breach of responsibility.[5]

Dymally was an old friend of Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones.[6] When Jones decided to move his congregation to Jonestown, Guyana, Dymally "wrote the Guyanese prime minister to reassure him that Jones was an upstanding citizen."[6] The Jonestown compound would be the site of the mass suicide of over 900 people on November 18, 1978.[6]

In the 1990s Dymally served as a paid lobbyist for the country of Mauritania, attempting to present the country as engaged in abolishing every remnant of slavery.[7]

Dymally came out of retirement and returned to the California State Assembly in 2002 when Assemblyman Carl Washington was term limited. He served for six years and then tried to return to the State Senate in 2008. However, he was defeated in the Democratic primary for State Senate election by Rod Wright. He died in Los Angeles and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.[8][9]

Mervyn M Dymally Senior High School at 88th street and San Pedro in South Central Los Angeles, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District is named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mervyn Dymally-Join
  2. ^ "George L. Brown, 79; First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S." Los Angeles Times. 2006-04-05. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  3. ^ a b c "Black Americans in Congress: Mervyn Malcolm Dymally". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  4. ^ "A Brief History..." The Upsilon of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  5. ^ Stewart, Jocelyn Y. (February 22, 2007) "Obituaries: Michael Franchetti, 64; financial advisor to former Gov. Deukmejian." Los Angeles Times. (Retrieved 1-12-09.)
  6. ^ a b c Flynn, Daniel (2011-11-17) The Original Kool-Aid Drinkers, The American Conservative
  7. ^ Elinor Burkett, "'God Created Me To Be a Slave,'" The New York Times Magazine, October 12, 1997, p. 58.
  8. ^ Obituary
  9. ^

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Montivel Burke
Member of the California Assembly
from the 53rd district

Succeeded by
Bill Greene
Preceded by
Carl Washington
Member of the California Assembly
from the 53rd district

Succeeded by
Isadore Hall III
California Senate
Preceded by
Vernon Sturgeon
Member of the California Senate
from the 29th district

Succeeded by
Bill Greene
Political offices
Preceded by
John L. Harmer
Lieutenant Governor of California
Succeeded by
Mike Curb
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles H. Wilson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 31st congressional district

Succeeded by
Matthew G. Martínez
Preceded by
Mickey Leland
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Ron Dellums