OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Former Oakland mayor and Congressional firebrand Ron Dellums, who helped shape Bay Area politics for decades, died overnight after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.
Dellums, who was was the first African American elected to Congress from Northern California, was 82. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who took over Dellums Congressional seat, confirmed her mentor’s passing.
“It is with deep sadness that I can confirm the passing of a great warrior and statesman, Congressman Ron Dellums,” she said in a statement. “The contributions that Congressman Dellums made to our East Bay community, the nation, and the world are too innumerable to count.”
“I feel blessed to have called Congressman Dellums my dear friend, predecessor, and mentor,” she continued. “I will miss him tremendously, and I will hold dear to my heart the many lessons I learned from this great public servant. My condolences are with the Dellums family, friends, and loved ones. His legacy and spirit will be forever with us.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Dellums “political activism shed light on injustices.”
“Congressman Ron Dellums governed from a place of morality and compassion, and his political political activism shed light on injustices within our country and all over the world,” Schaaf said in a statement. “His progressive values set the bedrock for Oakland values, and his life of public service will continue to inspire all of us for a more just and equitable society.”
Former President Bill Clinton called Dellums “fearless and philosophical.”
“Ron Dellums was intense and intelligent, fearless and philosophical,” Clinton said in a twitter post. “He spoke truth to power and appealed to America’s conscience in championing those who were left out and left behind, whether in the East Bay, across the nation or around the world. We will miss him.”
Congressional Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said “world is a darker place without the warmth and humanity of this great man.”
“Ron was an invaluable voice on defense issues in the Congress,” she said in a statement. “He brought exceptional moral clarity to our debates about military engagements and spending, and was a tremendous force in ensuring that our nation’s defense was both strong and smart. His relentless leadership to end apartheid in South Africa and fight the hateful ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy leave an extraordinary legacy for generations to come.”
News of Dellums passing triggered an avalanche of comments on social media.
He was born in Oakland, attended McClymonds High and Oakland Tech, graduating in 1953, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and earned a master’s degree in social work from UC Berkeley.
Dellums began his illustrious political career by winning a seat on the Berkeley City Council after working a series of social works job in the Bay Area.
He was elected to the U.S. House beginning in November of 1970 and was re-elected for 13 terms, finally stepping down in 1998. Dellums was an outspoken liberal during his tenure, especially as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
After stepping away from the national political scene, Dellums worked as a lobbyist before turning his attentions to politics in his hometown of Oakland where he was elected mayor in November 2007.