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Mervyn Dymally passes away at 86; Former California Lt. Governor spent decades in public office

Mervyn Dymally, the former California assemblyman, senator and lieutenant governor who also served in Congress for more than a decade, has died. A former press secretary for the Democratic lawmaker said Dymally died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Mervyn Dymally, the former California assemblyman, senator and lieutenant governor who also served in Congress for more than a decade, has died.
A former press secretary for the Democratic lawmaker said Dymally died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Former California Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally has died at the age of 86.

Dymally was a former California assemblyman, senator and lieutenant governor as well as a member of Congress. A former press secretary for the Democratic lawmaker said Dymally died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 86.

Jasmine Cannick said Dymally’s health had been in decline.

In a political career that started in 1963, Dymally served in state office for more than two decades and spent another 12 years in Congress representing the South Los Angeles area. The Trinidad-born Dymally became the state’s first black lieutenant governor when he was elected in 1975. Dymally was survived by his wife Alice, a son and a daughter.

About Dymally:

Mervyn Malcolm Dymally was born on May 12, 1926 in Cedros, Trinidad and Tobago and was proud of his mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian heritage. He served in the California State Assembly (1963–1966) and the California State Senate (1967–1975), as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California (1975–1979), and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981–1993). After a 10-year retirement, he returned to politics to serve in the California State Assembly (2002–2008). Dymally was the first Trinidadian to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California. He also served as the first Trinidadian in the California State Senate prior to his time as lieutenant governor. As a member of the House of Representatives, he was one of the first persons of African and Indian origin to serve in the U.S. Congress. Along with George L. Brown of Colorado, who was also elected a lieutenant governor in 1974, Dymally was one of the two first blacks elected to any statewide office in any state since Reconstruction.

Dymally received his secondary education at Naparima College, San Fernando, Trinidad, his undergraduate education at Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri and Los Angeles State College, his Master’s degree from California State University, Sacramento, and his doctorate from United States International University (now Alliant International University), San Diego.

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-Atty. Gen. Younger filed a letter of reprimand in Franchetti’s personnel records, accusing him of a breach of responsibility.

Dymally was an “old friend” of Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones.[3] 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.” The Jonestown compound would be the site of the mass suicide of over 900 people on November 18, 1978.

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.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

–Randy Economy

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    October 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm

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