Congressman Edward R. Roybal led a life of public service and represented 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 are named in honor of him including medical centers, courthouses, high schools, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) main campus as well as the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Centers for Translation Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences of Aging.
Early public service
He began his public career in 1940 as a health educator for the California Tuberculosis Association and later was director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association.
In 1949, he was 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 and was the first Latino from California elected to Congress since 1879. He was appointed 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:
- Co-founded the House Select Committee on Aging and served as chairman from 1983-1993
- 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 older adults, including a senior citizens’ public housing program and a community-based alternative to nursing homes
- Successfully maintained the Meals on Wheels program
- Played an important role in passing legislation that outlawed age discrimination
- Fought for benefits and opportunities for those with disabilities
- One of the first who championed and introduced legislation for a national health plan for the United States
- Supported the expansion of mental health care programs
- Succeeded in spearheading funding for America’s first AIDS research and treatment programs
- Protected veterans’ preferences in hiring in 1982
- Co-founded and served as president of Community Service Organization, a major California Latino civil rights organization
- Founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he served as both president and treasurer
- Founded the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
- Authored 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
- Awarded posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian award in the United States—from President Barack Obama in 2014
Congressman Roybal retired in 1993 after 30 years in office. He and his beloved wife Lucille Beserra-Roybal created The Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation, which is dedicated to providing programs, services, and opportunities for older adults, vulnerable adults, their families and all of East Los Angeles. Congressman Roybal is survived by his children, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Lillian Roybal-Rose and Ed Roybal, Jr.
Edward R. Roybal Memorial Lecture
The Edward R. Roybal Memorial Lecture was established by the USC Roybal Institute to honor the late Rep. Edward R. Roybal, a visionary leader in establishing aging services and a champion for civil rights and equal justice.
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