July 31, 2018

Passings: Ron Dellum

SF Gate

Ron Dellums, a Marine turned antiwar activist and feisty Democratic politician, was never one to walk away from a fight, no matter who started it.

Dellums, who died Monday at age 82, made that clear during his first run for Congress in 1970, when Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew, speaking for President Richard Nixon’s White House, pointedly branded the young Berkeley councilman as “an out and out radical” who needed to be “purged from the body politic” for his stance against the war in Vietnam and up-front fight against social ills.

The attack, like many others to come during his decades on the political battlefield, never fazed him.

“If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical,” he told a scrum of reporters at his campaign headquarters.

The unbridled passion behind that fiery rebuttal was characteristic of Dellums’ long political career, which included 27 years in Congress and a term as Oakland’s mayor. Dellums died at his home in Washington, D.C., after a battle with cancer.

Known for his trenchant speeches and unbending liberal views, Dellums started his adult life as a social worker and political organizer in Berkeley, and brought those sensibilities to Washington. He later used his connections on Capitol Hill to benefit Oakland, when he served four years as mayor.


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