Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Former CA Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally remembered at service

Pallbearers escort the casket of former California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally at his funeral at Holy Cross Mortuary, Oct. 17, 2012.
Pallbearers escort the casket of former California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally at his funeral at Holy Cross Mortuary, Oct. 17, 2012.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

Listen to

Download this 1.0MB

Funeral services were held Wednesday in Culver City for Mervyn M. Dymally, the "Godfather of African-American politics." He died last week at the age of 86.

California's only black lieutenant governor served during Gov. Jerry Brown's first term, and he was credited by many as helping to build an indpendent African-American power base in the state.

The Trinidad-born teacher advanced swiftly in American politics after he became a citizen in the 1950s. He first served as an Assemblyman, winning election in 1962.

Kenneth Orduna, Dymally's longtime chief political operative, recalled his friend as a simple man.

"Of all his accomplishments and positions he held, the chairman was a humble man and on the inside a country boy from Trinidad," Orduna said. "He had a burning desire to help people no matter what their station in life may have been. The chairman 's life was about doing the people's business."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the service, as did a host of elected officials. Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas were among the honorary pallbearers.

Dymally was known for mentoring a generation of Democratic politicians in the 1960s and '70s, working with then-Assembly Speaker Jess Unruh to build a network of working class African-American voters.

After the service, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) recalled that she was one of the "Divine Nine" African-Americans to win spots in the state Legislature in 2006, nearly doubling the previous total, thanks to Dymally's coaching of her and others.

Assemblyman Warren Furutani also lauded Dymally for making it easier for people of diverse backgrounds to win election.

Dymally became the state's first black state senator in 1966, and with his election as California lieutenant governor in 1974, Dymally became one of the first blacks elected to statewide office in the United States since Reconstruction.

Dymally served in Congress from 1980 through 1992 and staged a political comeback in 2002, winning his old Assembly seat.

He is survived by his wife, Alice Gueno Dymally, son Mark and daughter Lynn.