Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives; and former Mayor of Oakland, California
Ronald V. Dellums retired in 1998 from a distinguished congressional career spanning nearly three decades. Universally lauded as one of the most compelling and articulate speakers to serve in the House chamber, Dellums occupied many leadership positions in the House of Representatives. As the respected chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Dellums would take his struggle against militarism and war to the very heart of the national security establishment. During his chairmanship of the House District of Columbia Committee, he would have an opportunity to advance legislation addressing some of the most pressing national problems: mental and community health delivery, pension fund solvency, and infant mortality, to name just a few. As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, he led the effort to redefine national priorities through the budget process.
First elected to Congress in 1970, against the backdrop of the Indochina War, Dellums quickly became one of the leading voices for peace and disarmament in the Congress. He became a recognized expert both in military and foreign policy, and perfected his craft as the acclaimed chairman of the Armed Services Committee. His leadership in the field led to the abandonment of plans to deploy the MX-mobile missile; to the curtailment of production of the B-2 bomber; and to the requirement that President Bush secure congressional approval before launching offensive military action in the Gulf War. In the early 1980s, Dellums challenged the House of Representatives to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the “full implications” of the Reagan-era military buildup. When it failed to do so, he conducted the hearings himself, which led to the publication in 1983 of his book Defense Sense: The Search for a Rational Military Policy.
Dellums has long advocated the inextricable link between peace and justice. In this connection, he was the visionary leader of the successful congressional effort to end U.S. support for the racist apartheid regime of South Africa. He was among the first to recognize the growing responsibility for the United States to participate with the international community in international peace operations, as among the various means by which to deter, prevent, and contain armed conflict. He remains a vigorous advocate for arms reductions, nuclear disarmament, and the use of diplomacy and conflict resolution as the key elements of U.S. foreign policy.
While thought of mostly as a leader in the defense and foreign policy fields, Dellums also distinguished himself with domestic legislative initiatives. The most prominent of these was his National Health Service Act, a proposal that has long been considered the most comprehensive and progressive health care proposal before the Congress. First introduced in 1977, the bill was the product of years of research and collaboration with health care professionals and consumer groups. In addition, Dellums initiatives in the fields of civil rights and liberties, the environment, and affirmative action have been widely applauded as well.
A California native, Dellums was born in Oakland, California, on November 24, 1935. He and his wife, Leola (Roscoe) Higgs Dellums, have three children: Brandy, Erik, and Piper. Dellums served as an enlisted member of the U.S. Marine Corps prior to receiving an Associate of Arts degree from Oakland City College, a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State College, and a Master’s of Arts degree in social work from UC Berkeley. Prior to elective office Dellums enjoyed a distinguished career as a psychiatric social worker, job training and development program manager, and a nationallly prominent consultant on community job-development programs. He served on the Berkeley City Council from 1967 to 1971 prior to his election to the House of Representatives in November of 1970.
Ronald Dellums is currently the president of Healthcare International Management Company.
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