Congressional Record

Proceedings and Debates of the 81st Congress, First Session

(Not printed at Government expense)

Election of Roybal—Democracy at Work


Tuesday, August 9, 1949

Mr. HOLIFIELD. Mr. Speaker, it is not commonly known, but within the city of Los Angeles and its immediate environs is located the second greatest Mexican-American population center in the world. Mexico City, Mexico, is the No. 1 population area in this respect.

We are proud of the contribution which American citizens of Spanish and Mexican descent have made to the cultural, social, educational, and political life of our community. Within my congressional district many thousands of these good citizens reside. One group in my district which has organized and achieved a highly respected position among my constituents is the Community Service Organization. I want to compliment them on the active leadership they are taking in assisting their fellow citizens integrate themselves into every phase of our community.

In the recent Los Angeles City councilmanic elections, one of our highly respected American citizens of Mexican ancestry, Edward R. Roybal, was elected to the important position of city councilman of the ninth district, which is located in my congressional district.

Mr. Roybal was supported not only by Spanish-speaking citizens but by other good American citizens of Jewish, Negro, Japanese, Italian, and Philippine descent. In fact, people of all races and religions joined together to elect this fine young man to one of our most respected civic positions.

The election of Edward R. Roybal proves that the people of my district respect the intrinsic worth of the individual; it also proves that the majority of the people of my district are willing to rise above the prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry which precludes an individual from leadership because of his racial origin or his religious affiliation.

I am proud that the people of my district really believe in democracy. I am proud that they have demonstrated their belief by joining together and electing this worthy young man to public office. I am confident that Edward R. Roybal will acquit himself with great honor to the citizens of all races and religions, who have shown their trust and confidence in him by electing him to this position of leadership in our community.

Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks, I include in the RECORD, an editorial which appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News of July 1, 1949, on the subject matter of my remarks:


Today something new is being added to Los Angeles' city government.

When Edward R. Roybal takes office today as Ninth District city councilman, he becomes the first local citizen of Mexican-American ancestry to win councilmanic stature in more than 70 years.

Roybal's election also says that after nearly a century of civic silence Los Angeles' Spanish-speaking citizens—who constitute the city's numerically biggest minority—have raised their voices clearly and unmistakably. The estimated 250,000 residents of Mexican-American descent—those who comprise the Latin one-eighth of metropolitan Los Angeles and make it the largest Spanish-speaking city outside of Mexico—are learning to make use of the most effective channel open to democracy's cultural minorities—the ballot. Through this channel they may succeed in drawing the attention of the rest of the community to the needs of their neglected neighborhoods.

More importantly, the rising political consciousness of this Latin one-eighth promises the beginnings of a valuable bridge-building job.

During the modern years of Los Angeles' emergence as the third city of the Nation, a gulf has separated most Mexican-American citizens from the rest of the community. This gulf has been caused by many things: by language, by custom, by educational and economic factors. It's a gulf that isn't going to be bridged overnight. But a start toward bridging it at its most strategic point can be made and is being made at the precinct polling place. For it is here citizens begin to achieve social recognition and municipal attention on a par with that accorded other segments of the population. It is here citizens start to become responsible coparticipators in the life stream of the community and Nation.

What happened May 31 in Los Angeles' populous east side ninth councilmanic district was no accident. Councilman Roybal received more than 20,000 out of a total of approximately 35,000 votes cast because 2 years ago a civic-minded group known as the Community Service Organization set about to accomplish a task of social engineering among residents of the east side. In 6 months' time prior to the 1948 elections, the community-service group registered 15,000 Spanish-speaking residents and many other thousands from the Jewish, Negro, Japanese-American, Italian, Filipino, and Anglo neighborhoods of Los Angeles' most cosmopolitan area. What followed was a great upsurge of intergroup cooperation which rolled up a total of 138, 132 votes for Richard Ibanez as candidate for judge of Superior Court Office No. 2 and gave to Jose Chavez nearly quadruple the 1946 votes cast for him in the fifty-first assembly district contest. Neither candidate was elected; but the way was paved, nevertheless, for strengthened future effort, as the Roybal election testifies. On May 31, 1949, the ninth district registered 7 percent more votes than any other district in the city.

The Community Service Organization is the local project of the Chicago-founded Industrial Areas Foundation. Established 10 years ago in the stockyards neighborhood by Bishop Shiel, head of Chicago's Catholic Charities, and G. Howland Shaw, former Assistant Secretary of State, the foundation went to work with adults in slum communities to solve the problems of juvenile delinquency. Most notable IAF innovation was the Back-of-the-Yards Neighborhood Council, a small, tightly knit citizens' group dedicated to neighborhood improvement.

In east side Los Angeles the community service people are furthering the black-of-the-yards objectives. And they seem to be proving, by orderly, democratic methods, that it's possible for any people, regardless of race, religion, or national origin to tear down the ripped and twisted remnants of the old barbed barriers of hostility and prejudice, walling off citizens of various religious and ethnic backgrounds—proving it's possible for people to go forth arm in arm and become sharing partners in all the manifold, rich experiences that make up the thing we call the democratic process.

Yes, something new has been added to Los Angeles' civic life. The municipal household has a brighter, more up-to-date look. And the local precedents shattered by Roybal's election indicate democracy is stepping steadily forward on the home front—that the distance of caste and culture is shrinking to fit the shrunken world.—R. E. G. H.