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Finding Aid for the Edward R. Roybal Papers 1919 - 2003 CSRC.0107
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material

  • Title: Edward R. Roybal Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: CSRC.0107
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 732.0 linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1919 - 2003
    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: COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library and Archive for paging information.
    Creator: Roybal, Edward Ross, 1916-2005


    Collection is IN PROCESS. Advance notice is required for access. Contact the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library and Archive for paging information.

    Publication Rights

    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 obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edward R. Roybal Papers, 107, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Acquisition Information

    Deed of Gift is on file at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Archive Office.

    Processing History

    Processed by Lizette Guerra, Albany Bautista, 2008 - 2010
    Processing Note Processed by the Lizette Guerra, Albany Bautista, and the UCLA CSRC Staff between 2012 - 2015 at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library. Processing of this collection was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


    Edward Ross Roybal was born into a family that can trace 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 and graduated 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 Southwestern University.
    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 Christiensen'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 groups in Los Angeles which united a variety of religious, political, racial, ethnic, 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 and the personal endorsements of many of its members helped garner support that contributed to Roybal's victory in the 1949 election.
    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 to 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 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 U.S. Congressman.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    1. Series 1. International
    2. Series 2. Constituent correspondence
    3. Series 3. Plaques and Awards
    4. Series 4. Photographs
    5. Series 5. Ephemera, Personal
    6. Series 6. Clippings and Periodicals
    7. Series 7. Media: Audio, Video, Microfilm,
    8. Series 8. Manuscripts
    9. Series 9. Congressional Papers

    Related Material

    The Edward Ross Roybal Papers, 1953-1962 held at the UCLA Young Research Library, Department of Special Collections.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Roybal, Edward Ross, 1916-2005 -- Archives
    Mexican Americans--California--East Los Angeles--Politics and government.
    United States. Congress. House