OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A public memorial celebration for former congressman and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums was held at Jack London Square on Sunday.
Dellums was first elected to Congress in 1970 and immediately stood out in the crowd with his outspoken anti-war and anti-apartheid stance that was branded as radical and dangerous.
“He was on Nixon’s hate list!“ said his daughter, Piper Dellums. “But if you keep in mind my dad brought the idea of ending apartheid in 1970 to a world that had no dialogue.”
Dellums’ youngest daughter, Piper said she was proud that her father became an early voice against oppression in South Africa, applying pressure that would one day bring an end to apartheid.
At a tribute concert held as part of the celebration for Dellums at Jack London Square Sunday afternoon, the Oakland native was remembered as a warrior for peace on the world stage and an inspiration to the city’s current mayor, Libby Schaaf.
“I remember being a college student at UC Berkeley and protesting and knowing that my congressman was leading the world in this fight for justice,“ said Schaaf. “He was larger than life, but always an Oaklander.”
Perhaps it was that feeling that convinced Dellums to run for mayor of Oakland in 2006 at the age of 70.
He won with help from campaign volunteers like Georgia Richardson, who told KPIX 5 Dellums represented everything.
“He taught me a lot although we were almost the same age, which…we won’t discuss that!” said Richardson.
But in his single term as mayor, Dellums often drew criticism for seeming disinterested in running the city and being absent a lot. But his daughter says he had a secret.
Dellums was diagnosed with cancer shortly after announcing his candidacy.
“So for the entire time they were calling him the invisible mayor, he had prostate cancer, liver, kidney, lung and bone…fourth stage,” said Piper Dellums.
Dellums declined to run for reelection and his final days were spent fighting a battle that could not be won.
But it is the battles that he did win for which he will always be remembered.
Dellums died July 30 at the age of 82.