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Inventory of the Ralph C. Dills Papers
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ralph C. Dills Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1963-1998
    Collection number: See series descriptions
    Creator: Dills, Ralph C.
    Extent: 19 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: Ralph C. Dills, Democrat, was elected to the 69th Assembly District, one of the thirty districts representing Los Angeles County in 1938. He resigned in 1949. In 1966 he won the 32nd Senatorial District and served in the Senate until 1998.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ralph C. Dills Papers, LP[number]:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The California State Archives acquired the Ralph C. Dills Papers following his final Senate term.


    Ralph C. Dills, Democrat, was elected to the 69th Assembly District, one of the thirty districts representing Los Angeles County in 1938. He won the seat with 65% of the vote. Dills resigned in June, 1949, to become a Justice Court Judge. Two years later he was appointed a Municipal Court Judge where he served for 16 years. In 1966 he ran a successful campaign for the 32nd Senatorial district in Los Angeles County. After the 1970 reapportionment the 32nd district included the cities of Avalon, Carson, Compton, Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lomita, Redondo Reach, part of South Los Angeles and San Pedro-Wilmington, as well as the Long Beach harbor area and Santa Catalina Island.
    In the 1980 reapportionment the new 30th Senate District included all or parts of Carson, Compton, Florence, Gardena, Harbor City, Lawndale, Lomita, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington. (California State Library Bio File). In 1990 Dills was elected to represent the 30th Senatorial District and represented all or parts of Compton, Dominguez, East Compton, Harbor City, Keystone, La Rambla, L. A. Harbor Gateway, Long Beach, San Pedro, Torrance Strip, and Wilmington. In addition, Senator Dills co-represented the following cities and areas of the 30th Senate District with Senator Teresa Hughes: Athens, Florence, Gardena, Gardena Strip, Lynwood, Moneta, Paramount, Willowbrook, and Wilmington.
    Ralph C. Dills was born on a farm in Rosston, Cooke County, Texas in 1910 to Jesse Maro Canada Dills and Viola Bohannon both from Texas. He was one of eight children, six boys and two girls. According to his correspondence, his paternal grandfather was from Dillsborough, North Carolina and his grandmother was Cynthia Cooper also of North Carolina. His family lived in Oklahoma and Arizona before they moved to Gardena, California in 1925 where he graduated from Gardena High School. He worked while attending Compton Junior College, the University of California where he received an A.B. degree; USC where he received his MA degree and general secondary teaching credential; and Loyola University School of Law where he received an LL.B. degree. He was married to Effie Wymore, with whom he had one son. Prior to running for the Assembly he was a school teacher.
    During his term in the Assembly he authored legislation relating to brokers and salesmen of minerals, oil and gas. He was also interested in a variety of issues such as health, and carried legislation providing state subsidies to counties for care to patients suffering from tuberculosis. He successfully carried legislation regarding social welfare issues such as increasing old age allowance. He was a strong advocate of the judicial system and through his efforts established the Superior and Municipal Courts in Paramount, Lynwood, Watts, Willowbrook, Compton, East Gardena and Carson areas; and judicial administrative functions such as traveling expenses for substitute judges and salary increases for judges and other court attaches. Legislation relating to education included establishing the Long Beach State University, providing educational funding for veterans and their dependents, establishing evening schools for adults and minors, and requiring that schools provide instruction in American history and the Constitution. In addition, to educational funding, Dills was also concerned with improving benefits for public employees and teachers. To meet the increasing population and growth in industrial activities due to the war production, he introduced legislation that would facilitate the construction of sewers and sewage disposal works. He was one of the few legislators who voted against interning Japanese during World War II.
    In June 1949 he resigned from the Assembly and took a position as Justice of the Peace, South Los Angeles Township. In 1952 he was appointed a Municipal Court Judge, a position he held for six terms. During this time he also taught Political Science at Long Beach State University.
    In 1966 he won the 32nd Senatorial District. For the next 32 years Senator Dills would continue to pursue his convictions of increasing educational funding and improving public employer - employee relations by authoring legislation providing for collective bargaining for public employees. Throughout his career he was a strong advocate for peace officers and firemen, and on several occasions he was named "Legislator of the Year" by their organizations. In 1998 he sponsored legislation greatly improving retirement benefits for teachers. From 1970 through 1998 when he retired, he was Chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, where issues such as alcohol, tobacco, horse racing, labor, the lottery, air pollution and tidelands gas and oil drilling were considered. He was also a member of the Senate Education Committee from 1975 through 1998 and Senate the Appropriations Committee from 1985 through 1998.
    In addition to his judicial and legislative careers, he held many leadership positions and was involved in community groups. He was Chairman of the Los Angeles County Delegation of 32 legislators for four years, Democratic Presidential Elector in 1944, 1948 and 1966, and Secretary of the Democratic State Central Committee of Southern California. He had a lifetime secondary teaching credential, and was a Life Member of the PTA of Enterprise High School, President of the Garden Alumni Association, Compton College Alumni Association and the Municipal Court Judges Association for Los Angeles County. He also served as Junior Governor of the Moose Lodge; Presiding Justice, Elks Lodge; and a member of the Board of Directors of the City of Hope, Kidney Foundation, and the Director of the South Area Boy's Club. He was a member of the York and Scottish Rite Mason 33 degree, National Grange and Farm Bureau and a life member of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Japanese American Citizens League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was a past president of the National Association of State Legislatures, a position he held while serving in the Senate.
    Senator Dills served 42 years in the Legislature, more than any other Legislator. He also was the longest serving presiding officer of the Senate earning him the title of "Emeritis Presiding Officer of the Senate". He and his brother Clayton were the only brothers to ever serve in the Legislature at the same time. They both served in the Assembly from 1942 when Clayton was elected until 1949 when Ralph resigned to become a Justice Court Judge.
    Senator Dills died May 16, 2002 in Rocklin, California where he lived on his ranch. His wife, Elizabeth Lee preceded him in death. He had three children and two grandchildren.
    Ralph C. Dills served on the following committees during his term in the Legislature as an Assemblyman from 1938 - 1949 and as a Senator from 1967 - 1998. This information was derived from the Legislative Handbook In Sacramento and the Senate and Assembly Final Histories.

    State Assembly, 1938-1949

    • Standing Committees
    • Agriculture, 1947
    • Aviation and Aircraft, 1941
    • Commerce and Navigation, 1941
    • Conservation, Natural Resources, and Planning, 1943
    • *Chairman, 1943
    • Education, 1939
    • *Chairman, 1941-1949
    • Electors, 1941
    • Financial Institutions, 1939
    • Government Efficiency and Economy, 1943, 1947, 1949
    • Judiciary, 1945
    • Judiciary, General 1939, 1941
    • Libraries, 1939
    • Live Stock and Dairies, 1939-1949
    • Manufacturing, Oil, and Mining Industry, 1945-1947
    • *Chairman
    • Oil Industries, 1939, 1941
    • *Chairman
    • Public Health, 1943, 1945
    • Reapportionment, 1941
    • Revenue and Taxation, 1941
    • Rules and House Functions, 1943
    • Universities, 1941
    • Special Committees
    • Assembly Lighting, 1939
    • Health Insurance, 1945
    • Milk Production and Distribution, and Swine Diseases, 1943
    • State-Federal Cooperation in Petroleum, 1943
    • *Chairman
    • Assembly Interim Committees
    • Interstate Cooperation, 1947, 1949
    • Legislative Constitutional Revision Commission, 1947
    • Live Stock and Dairies, 1939, 1941, 1945
    • Petroleum Oil and its Products, State-Federal Cooperation In Discovery, Production, Transportation, Refining and Use of,
    • *Chairman 1945, 1947
    • Public Education, 1947
    • Survey of Organizations of Publicly Supported Higher Education In the State by Department of Education and Regents of University of California, 1947, 1949
    • Joint Interim Committees
    • Centennial and World's Fair Committee, 1945
    • Interstate Cooperation, 1945, 1947, 1949
    • Legislative Constitutional Revision, 1947
    • Special Joint Committee
    • Lending Transactions

    State Senate, 1966-1998

    • Standing Committees
    • Appropriations, 1985-1998
    • Bonded Indebtedness and Methods of Financing, 1987-1990
    • Constitutional Amendments, 1997-1998
    • *Vice Chairman
    • Education, 1975-1998
    • Energy and Public Utilities, 1979-1984
    • Finance, 1968-1969, 1981-1984
    • Fish and Game, 1967
    • *Chairman
    • Government Efficiency, 1969
    • Governmental Organization, 1971-1998
    • *Chairman
    • Health and Welfare, 1970-1974
    • Industrial Relations, 1970
    • Legislative Representation, 1967
    • Natural Resources, 1967-1968
    • Natural Resources and Wildlife, 1970-1978
    • Public Utilities, 1967
    • Public Utilities and Corporations, 1968-1974
    • *Chairman, 1971-1974
    • Public Utilities, Transit and Energy, 1975-1978
    • Revenue and Taxation, 1979-1980, 1991-1994
    • Transportation, 1967-1970
    • Veterans Affairs, 1989-1998
    • Subcommittees
    • Bonded Indebtedness and Methods of Financing, 1991-1996
    • Cable Television, 1977-1980
    • California Environmental Quality Act-CEQA, 1995-1996
    • Energy, 1977-1980
    • Fiscal Oversight, 1997-1998
    • Gaming, 1985-1990
    • *Chairman, 1991-1998
    • Horse Racing, 1989-1998
    • Southern California Rapid Transit, 1979-1980
    • State Tidelands, 1987-1994
    • Veteran Affairs, 1985-1988
    • *Chairman
    • Select Committees
    • Alameda Corridor, 1997-1998
    • California's Business Climate, 1991-1994
    • California's Wine Industry, 1987-1998
    • Employment Practices, 1971-1972
    • Governmental Efficiency, 1987-1990
    • Higher Education, 1997-1998
    • Horse Racing, 1997-1998
    • Local Public Safety, 1971-1972
    • Mobile and Manufactured Homes, 1995-1998
    • Mobilehomes, 1987-1994
    • Pacific Rim, 1991-1994
    • Solid and Hazardous Waste, 1987-1988
    • Source Reduction and Recycling, Marketing Development, 1989-1996
    • University of California Admissions, 1987-1988
    • Special Committees
    • Solid and Hazardous Waste, 1987-1994
    • University of California Admissions, 1987-1990
    • Joint Committees
    • Atomic Development and Space, 1967-1972
    • *Chairman
    • Courthouse Financing and Construction, 1989-1990
    • Fairs Allocation and Classification, 1971-1998
    • *Chairman, 1981-1982
    • International Trade, 1989-1992
    • Organized Crime and Gang Violence, 1989-1992
    • Public Domain, 1967-1974
    • Public Employer - Employee Relations, 1973-1974
    • Refugee Resettlement, International Migration and Cooperative Development, 1987-1992
    • Rules Committee, 1979-1998
    • State's Economy, 1979-1986
    • *Chairman
    • Boards and Commissions
    • California Advisory Commission on Marine and Coastal Resources, 1973-1974
    • California Commission on Tourism, 1987-1998
    • Commission of the Californias, 1977-1980
    • Constitution Revision Commission, 1967, 1968
    • Economic Development, 1971-1980
    • Employment Development - Rehabilitation Task Force, 1973-1974
    • Governor's Outdoor Advisory Commission, 1981-1984
    • Marine and Coastal Resources, 1967-1969
    • Task Force on The Feasibility of Creation of a department to Regulate Credit Unions, 1989-1990

    Scope and Content

    The Ralph C. Dills Papers consists of approximately 19 cubic feet. They span the thirty-one years Dills served in the State Senate, 1967 through 1998. Senator Dills also served in the Assembly from 1939 to 1949. The records from this time were not transferred to the State Archives.
    The legislation Dills authored in the Senate did not vary from the legislation he authored twenty years earlier while he was in the Assembly. He was an advocate of improving quality of life for many of his fellow citizens. For example he authored legislation that would increase old age allowance and delete provisions requiring their relatives' to support them or reimburse the county or state for their compensation. He also carried bills that would improve working conditions and benefits of local government safety employees as well as all public employees. Authoring legislation that provided collective bargaining for the public sector was one of his most significant measures in this area. He continually championed for improving educational funding and retirement benefits for teachers of grades k-12 and community college professors, as well as other certificated school employees. Maritime and ocean commerce was another area he promoted. He carried legislation improving the administration of municipal and superior courts, including salaries and benefits of court personnel. As a member of the Government Organization Committee for 20 years he was influential in legislation relating to gambling, alcoholic beverages, the lottery and local government issues.


    Arranged into two series: bill files and subject files.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been associated with these materials in the Archives' automated public access system (currently in development, August 2004).


    Dills, Ralph C.
    California - - Legislature - - Senate
    California - - Legislature - - Assembly

    Related Material

    Ralph C. Dills, Oral History Interview, Conducted 1989 by Carlos Vasquez, UCLA Oral History Program, for the California State Archives State Government Oral History Program.