Congressman Edward R. Roybal led a life of public service, representing Southern California for 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives following 13 years of service on the Los Angeles City Council. Numerous buildings bear the name of Edward R. Roybal to honor and continue his legacy.
Early public service
He began his public career in 1940 as a health educator for the California Tuberculosis Association and later became director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association.
In 1949, he became the first Latino elected to the Los Angeles City Council, where he was a champion for civil rights and equal justice. He served in a leadership capacity on the council, as president pro-tempore and chairman of the Health Committee.
An advocate for those in need
In 1962, Edward Roybal began three decades of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Latino from California elected to Congress since 1879. He garnered appointment to the prestigious and powerful Appropriations Committee and chaired the Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government. His post on the Appropriations Committee enabled him to become an influential advocate for federal funding for health, education, community health programs and bilingual education. He also served as a ranking member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittees.
Highlights of Congressman Roybal’s decades of service:
- Author of the 1968 legislation that established the National Bilingual Education Act to assist schools in meeting the educational needs of children who come from non-English-speaking homes.
- Played an important role in the passage of legislation outlawing age discrimination and fought for benefits and opportunities for those with disabilities.
- Responsible for funding America’s first AIDS research and treatment programs
- Championed the first federal funding for Alzheimer’s Disease and was instrumental in renewing legislation to provide medical service to people with the disease
- Led the campaign to restore funding for programs for the elderly, including a senior citizens’ public housing program and a community-based alternative to nursing homes
- Successfully maintained the Meals on Wheels program and protected veterans’ preferences in hiring in 1982
- Consumer rights defender
- Co-founder of the House Select Committee on Aging, serving as chairman from 1983-1993
- One of the first legislators to introduce legislation to establish a national health plan for the United States
- Founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he served as both president and treasurer
- Founder of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
Congressman Roybal elected to retire in 1993 after 30 years in office. He created The Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation dedicated to providing scholarships to deserving students to attend college. Congressman Roybal was survived by his beloved wife, Lucille Beserra-Roybal, and children, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Lillian Roybal-Rose and Ed Roybal, Jr.
In 2014, he was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian award in the United States—from President Barack Obama.
Edward R. Roybal Memorial Lecture
The USC Roybal Institute honors the late Rep. Edward R. Roybal, a visionary leader in establishing aging services and a champion for civil rights and equal justice, at the Edward R. Roybal Memorial Lecture.
The USC Roybal Institute has invited distinguished speakers to deliver the Edward R. Roybal Memorial Lecture.
2018: Carl V. Hill, Director, Office of Special Populations of the National Institute on Aging
2016: Dr. Richard H. Carmona, Vice Chairman of Canyon Ranch, President of Canyon Ranch Institute, Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona and 17th Surgeon General of the United States
2014: Togo D. West Jr., Chairman of TLI Leadership Group and of Noblis Inc. and 3rd U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
2012: Henry G. Cisneros, Executive Chairman of CityView and 10th U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
2011: U.S. Rep. Karen Bass