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Roybal (Edward R.) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • Processing Note
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Online items available
  • Related Material

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Title: Edward Ross Roybal papers
    creator: Roybal, Edward Ross
    Identifier/Call Number: LSC.0847
    Physical Description: 18.4 Linear Feet (45 document boxes, 1 flat box)
    Date (inclusive): 1947-1962
    Abstract: Edward Ross Roybal (1916- ) was a public health educator for the California Tuberculosis Association (1942-44), the director of health education for the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis and Health Association (1945-49), a member of the Los Angeles City Council (1949-62), president of Eastland Savings and Loan Association (1958-68), and a Democrat in the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives (1963-93) where he served as chairman of the Select Committee on Aging from 1989-93. The collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, notes, photographs, and printed material related to his career as a Los Angeles City Councilman.
    Physical Location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Edward Ross Roybal, 1963.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Michael Aguilar II in 2012 in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Jillian Cuellar. Processing of this collection was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edward Ross Roybal papers (Collection 847). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.


    Edward Ross Roybal was born into a family that traced 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, graduating 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 Christianson'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 organizations in Los Angeles, CA which tied together a variety of religious, political, racial, ethic, 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 of the organization and the personal endorsements of many of its members helped garner a swell of support that contributed to Roybal's victory.
    Taking office in 1949, 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 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 of 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

    Collection contains a variety of documents related to the work of Edward Ross Roybal as a member of the Los Angeles City Council from 1949-1962 and as a member of multiple organizations and commissions during his tenure. Materials include correspondence, propaganda booklets and pamphlets, magazine and newspaper clippings, photographs, reports, maps, blueprints, radio broadcasts, and various Los Angeles City Council documents produced during this period. Notable peer correspondence includes former Governor Edmund G. Brown, former representative Clair Engle, and former supervisor John Anson Ford. Many documents concern developments and improvements including Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Chavez Ravine, downtown Los Angeles, general infrastructure improvements, the Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Los Angeles freeway system, and oil drilling locations. The variety of positions taken towards these developments by Roybal's constituents, peers, affiliated organizations, and non-affiliated organizations can be found within the documents (specifically correspondence, propaganda, and newspaper clippings). Groups in which Roybal was active include the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, the Council for Equality in Employment, the Eastland Savings and Loan Association, the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), and the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Los Angeles. Extensive correspondence with non-affiliated organizations and bodies exists between Roybal and the Downtown Business Men's Association, the Los Angeles Housing Authority, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles. Additionally, the collection contains documents on the creation of ordinances regarding environmental, health, and societal issues facing Los Angeles during this period. These include air pollution, discriminatory housing practices, juvenile delinquency, public health services, public transportation, rabies vaccination, segregation, traffic, unemployment, and race relations (primarily Latin American, yet also including African American, Chinese American, Japanese American, and Jewish American). The collection also includes material on external relations and events concerning Los Angeles, with notable cases being Latin American affairs, sisters cities in Japan and Mexico, anti-Communist campaigns, and Civil Defense documents produced on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Collection arranged alphabetically by subject. As the collection was processed the original alphabetical organizational structure was maintained according to subject. Minimal adjustments were made only when a document was clearly misfiled. This gives insight into Roybal's documentation of historical events and municipal developments in Los Angeles following World War II. Researchers should not that although explicit subject files exist for many of Roybal's peers and affiliated organizations, documents produced by them may also be filed under a variety of other related subjects.

    Related Material

    xlink: Edward R. Roybal papers, 1919-2003 (Collection 107).   Available at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library.
    xlink: Knox Mellon, Jr. Collection of California Democratic Council Papers (Collection 1061).   Available at Library Special Collections, UCLA.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Los Angeles (Calif.). City Council.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
    Mexican American legislators -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archives.
    Los Angeles (Calif.). Police Department.
    California. State Fair Employment Practice Commission.
    Brown, Edmund G. (Edmund Gerald), 1905-1996 --Correspondence. -- Correspondence
    Engle, Clair, 1911-1964 --Correspondence. -- Correspondence
    Ford, John Anson--Correspondence. -- Correspondence
    Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, California
    Ford, John Anson
    League of Women Voters of Los Angeles
    Mexican American Political Association (Calif.)
    Roybal, Edward Ross -- Archives