Scope and Content
Title: Edward R. Roybal Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1919 - 2003
Collection number: 107
Creator: Roybal, Edward
732 linear feet
University of California, Los Angeles. Library.
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA
Los Angeles, California 90095-1490
Abstract: The collection consists of historical
photographs, correspondence, and personal and organizational papers
reflecting Edward Roybal's family history and years of public service as
a Los Angeles City Councilman and U.S. Congressman. Researchers who
would like to indicate errors of fact or omissions in this finding aid
can contact the research center at www.chicano.ucla.edu
Physical location: The collection is currently in
process and housed at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library
and Archive. A deed is on file in the archive office.
Language of Material: Collection materials in English
Collection is IN PROCESS, but will be stored off-site at SRLF. It is
currently not open for research. Advance notice is required for access.
Contact the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library and Archive for
Copyright has not been assigned to the UCLA Chicano Studies Research
Center. All requests for permission to publish must be submitted in
writing to the Chicano Studies Research Center Library. Permission for
publication is given on behalf of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research
Center as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include
or imply permission from the copyright holder, which must also be
[Identification of item], Edward R. Roybal Papers, 107, Chicano
Studies Research Center, UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles.
Deed on file at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Archive
Edward Ross Roybal was born into a family that traced its roots to
Spain's colonization of northern New Mexico in 1598. In 1922, a railroad
strike prevented his father from being able to work, and Roybal moved
with his family to the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights,
where he attended local public schools, graduating from Roosevelt High
School in 1934. After graduation, Roybal joined the Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal program that provided him with an
experience that both reflected and reinforced his developing commitment
to public service. After serving in the CCC, Roybal attended the
University of California, Los Angeles, and later studied law at
In 1942, Roybal began work as a public health educator with the
California Tuberculosis Association. His work there, however, was
interrupted by a tour in the Army, where he worked as an accountant for
an infantry unit. Upon returning home, he began work as director of
health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health
Association, a position he held until 1949.
In 1947, having been encouraged by many familiar with his work in
social outreach programs on Los Angeles' east side, Roybal decided to
run for the 9th District Seat of the Los Angeles City Council, then held
by Parley Parker Christensen. The district, which included Boyle
Heights, Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the
Central Avenue corridor, was then 45% White, 34% Latino, 15% African
American, and 6% "other." Roybal, unable to secure a large enough
portion of the vote from outside the Latino community to overcome
Christianson's support across ethnic lines and from organized labor in
particular, lost the election.
In 1949, Roybal teamed with local organizer Fred Ross and a group of
people who had supported his earlier campaign to form the Community
Service Organization (CSO), one of the first coalition building
organizations in Los Angeles, CA which tied together a variety of
religious, political, racial, ethic, and organized labor groups to fight
local discrimination. The organization, which organized get-out-the-vote
drives, did not explicitly endorse candidates, but Roybal's presence as
president of the organization and the personal endorsements of many of
its members helped garner a swell of support that contributed to
Taking office in 1949, Roybal began a long career in public office;
he served as a councilman from 1949 to 1962 and was president
pro-tempore in his last term. As councilman, he became a figure of great
importance, particularly on issues confronting the local Latino
community. Most famously, he led the opposition the land swap taken
under eminent domain by the city of Los Angeles, and then given to
private enterprise, that allowed for Dodger Stadium to be built in the
largely Mexican-American community of Chavez Ravine.
During his time within the City Council, Roybal, as a prominent young
Democrat, received encouragement to run for higher office. In 1954, he
lost an effort to become Lieutenant Governor, although he still received
more votes than the Democratic candidate for Governor. Running in 1958
against Ernest Debs for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of
Supervisors, Roybal lost a bitterly-contested election in which he held
a slim lead on election night, but lost after four recounts gave the
election to Debs, fueling suspicions of voter fraud. Despite this,
Roybal ran for Congress in 1962, winning the election in the 25th
District – an area that included his native Boyle Heights, East
Los Angeles, Downtown, and parts of Hollywood. After his departure, the
City Council went 23 years without a Latino member until Richard
Alatorre's election in 1985.
Beginning his term in 1963, he became the first Latino Congressperson
from California since the 1878 election of Romualdo Pacheco. As
Congressman, Roybal was generally known for a low-key legislative style.
In his first term, he served on the Interior and Insular Affairs
Committee and the Post Office Committee. In his next term, he served on
the Foreign Affairs Committee and on the Veteran's Affairs Committee.
Beginning in 1971, he served on the House Appropriations Committee for
more than two decades and authored a number of bills, many of which were
not universally popular, that offered support for groups he saw as
disenfranchised. Many of his actions were on behalf of veterans, the
elderly, and Mexican-Americans.
He was also critical of the House Un-American Activities Committee
and the politics of McCarthyism, and was the sole vote against the
Subversive Registration Bill, which required written loyalty oaths.
Several sections of the bill were were later ruled unconstitutional by
the United States Supreme Court. In 1960 Roybal helped organize the
Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and served as its first
president from 1960 to 1962.
In 1967 he wrote the first bill giving federal support to bilingual
education, creating specialized language instruction for immigrant
populations. As Chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, he led
a successful campaign to restore $15 million in funding for low-cost
health programs and expanded public housing for senior citizens. In 1982
he worked to preserve the Meals on Wheels program and veterans'
preferences in hiring. In the early 1980s, against the wishes of many of
his own constituents, he argued for expanded funding for AIDS research.
In 1976 he became a founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
(CHC) and later co-founded the National Association of Latino Elected
and Appointed Officials (NALEO). In 1986, as chair of the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus, he led the unsuccessful opposition to the Immigration
Reform and Control Act of 1986, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act.
Roybal retired in 1993 after thirty years in office. That year,
following redistricting, his daughter Lucille Roybal-Allard became the
Representative for the 33rd District, which contained part of Roybal's
district; while Xavier Becerra, with Roybal's endorsement, won the
election in the 30th District, which included much of the remaining
territory of Roybal's former 25th District.
At the time of his death, more buildings in Los Angeles and in the
nation were named after him than any other single person. Among the
buildings named for Roybal are the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building
located in what had been his home district in California, the Edward R.
Roybal Comprehensive Health Clinic in East Los Angeles, the Edward R.
Roybal Learning Center, the University of Southern California Edward R.
Roybal Institute on Aging, the main campus of the Center for Disease
Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and thirteen federally funded Roybal
Centers for Health Promotion and Translation located on various
university campuses throughout the United States.
Congressman Roybal credited many of his accomplishments to the
enduring love and support of his life-long partner of 65 years, Lucille
Beserra Roybal. After retiring from Congress, he founded the Lucille and
Edward Roybal Foundation which awards scholarships to Latino and Latina
students pursuing careers in the field of health. Edward Roybal lived
the rest of his life in Pasadena, California with his wife Lucille, as
one of the deans of local and national politics, endorsing several
candidates in elections throughout the region. He died at the age of 89
at the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena of respiratory failure
complicated by pneumonia.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of historical photographs, correspondence,
and personal and organizational papers reflecting Edward Roybal's family
history and years of public service as a Los Angeles City Councilman and
The Edward Ross Roybal Papers, 1953-1962 held at the UCLA Young
Research Library, Department of Special Collections.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Edward R. Roybal
First Latino Congressman
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed