Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard Leads Planting of Memorial Tree for Rep. Edward R. Roybal at U.S. Capitol

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Washington, March 16, 2016 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
This afternoon, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) led the planting of a tree on the U.S. Capitol Grounds in honor of her father, the late Congressman Edward R. Roybal.  The tree, a red oak (Quercus rubra), was planted on the south side of the U.S. House along Southwest Drive, near the intersection of Independence Avenue SW and South Capitol Street.  Congressman Roybal served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1993, and was one of the era’s leading congressional voices on health care, education, housing, and jobs policy.  He also co-founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), and founded the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

The tree was planted to mark the centennial of Congressman Roybal’s birth, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the CHC and NALEO.  In October, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard led a letter signed by 52 of her House colleagues to the Architect of the Capitol, requesting approval to plant the tree from the Speaker of the House and the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee.  That approval was granted.

Today’s ceremony was attended by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard and other members of Congressman Roybal’s family.  Other distinguished guests included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV), and Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, who all joined Congresswoman Roybal-Allard in speaking during the ceremony.  House Chaplain Fr. Patrick J. Conroy, S.J., blessed the tree during the ceremony.

“In celebration of the centennial of my father’s birth, I can think of no greater tribute than the planting of this red oak tree on the U.S. Capitol Grounds,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard.  “If my father were alive today, of all the tributes he has received, this tree would be among his most cherished, because it is being planted between the House of Representatives, which my father truly believed is the people’s house, and the Rayburn Building, where he spent much of his thirty years in Congress doing the people's work.  This tree will be a living testimony to my father’s work to ignite beacons of hope and opportunity for all Americans.”

“This mighty oak will stand in testimony to Ed’s enduring contributions to our democracy,” said Leader Pelosi.  “When others in Washington turned their backs on seniors, the disenfranchised and the forgotten, Ed Roybal was there.  Every day, I saw his command of the issues, the power of his advocacy and his determination to help all Americans.  In the House, we are so proud of how his daughter Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard carries forward Ed’s service to hard-working families.”

“The tree planted today is an important reminder of Edward Roybal’s extraordinary work in Congress and his service to our country,” said Whip Hoyer.  “I had the honor of serving with him for twelve years, and I witnessed first-hand his love of country, California, his Mexican-American heritage, and his family.  The tree also represents the flourishing of an organization he co-founded and to which he gave so much energy – the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  I have been proud to work with his daughter, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, as she carries on his work in Congress.  As the tree grows taller and more firmly rooted over time, so too will the CHC continue to grow and provide leadership rooted firmly in Edward Roybal’s legacy.”

“Congressman Roybal was a visionary leader who gave a voice to underrepresented and forgotten constituencies.  From his work with fair housing, equal employment and HIV/AIDS, to his co-founding of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and NALEO, Congressman Roybal fought tirelessly to make our country a better place.  It is fitting that we honor him with this memorial at the U.S. Capitol, where he spent decades as a powerful advocate for the disenfranchised,” said Senator Reid. “I thank Congresswoman Roybal-Allard for inviting me to take part in this important event as we honor her father’s tremendous legacy.”


Biography of Congressman Edward R. Roybal

Throughout his public service on the Los Angeles City Council and in the U.S. Congress, Congressman Edward R. Roybal was a man of the people who believed in a government committed to helping the underrepresented, the dispossessed, and the forgotten.  His humanity was reflected in every aspect of his public career – he authored landmark legislation regarding fair housing, equal employment, bilingual education, childhood immunization, aging, HIV/AIDS, and care for people with disabilities, and secured public health funds to reach people at risk.  Throughout his political career, he had the moral courage to speak out against injustices and wrongs, and to never stand down when others advised him that it could cost him his political future.

Edward Ross Roybal was born on February 10, 1916, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  At the age of six, his family moved to the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.  After graduation from Roosevelt High School in 1934, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.  He later continued his education at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied business administration, and at Southwestern University, where he studied law.

After working for the California Tuberculosis Association, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.  Upon his return, he continued his work with the California Tuberculosis Association as its director of health education for Los Angeles County.

Mr. Roybal first ran unsuccessfully for the Los Angeles City Council in 1947.  Reacting positively to his defeat, he co-founded the Community Service Organization (CSO) to empower the neglected Ninth District of Los Angeles to fight against discrimination in housing, employment, and education. 

In 1949, following a groundswell of support from minority communities, Mr. Roybal was elected to serve the Ninth District on the Los Angeles City Council.  He made history as the first Hispanic to serve on the city council in more than a century.  He served the Ninth District for 13 years.

Mr. Roybal was the Democratic nominee for California Lieutenant Governor in 1954.  In 1958, his opponent was declared the winner in a controversial vote count for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Edward Roybal served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years.  He was first elected to the House in 1962 to serve the 30th District of California, which included communities like Boyle Heights, Hollywood, Hancock Park, MacArthur Park, and Downtown Los Angeles.  He was the first Hispanic from California to serve in Congress since 1879.  Following the redistricting based on the 1970 census, Rep. Roybal won election in California’s newly created 25th District, which, like the 30th, was comprised of constituents from widely diverse ethnicities.  

Rep. Roybal was a powerful advocate for funding for education, civil rights, and health programs.  He was the first member of Congress to appropriate funding for HIV/AIDS research.

Early in his congressional career, Rep. Roybal served on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, the Post Office Committee, and later the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee.  In 1971, he was selected to serve on the exclusive Committee on Appropriations, where he remained for the rest of his tenure in the House.  He became one of the thirteen cardinals of the House when he was elected chair of the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee in 1981.

Rep. Roybal also served on the Select Committee on Aging, serving as chair from 1985 to 1993.  In 1980, he led a campaign for the restoration of funds to programs for the elderly.  In 1982, he was successful in maintaining the Meals on Wheels program.  He was also one of the principal authors of the Older Americans Act.

In 1976, Rep. Roybal was one of the founding members and the first chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).  He was also founding member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

In 1992, his daughter, California Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, was elected to serve the newly created 33rd Congressional District of California.

In 1993, former Rep. Roybal used his remaining campaign funds to found the non-profit Edward R. Roybal Foundation to award scholarships for students in public health.  He also founded the Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology, dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of health and human service delivery to older persons, now located at the University of Southern California.

In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) honored Rep. Roybal for his trailblazing leadership and long-standing support for public health programs by naming its main campus in Atlanta in his honor and awarding him its Champion of Prevention Award.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Rep. Roybal the Presidential Citizens Medal for over 50 years of "exemplary deeds of service for our nation."

The annual award given by NALEO for outstanding public service is named the Edward R. Roybal Public Service Award in his honor.

In 2004, Rep. Roybal was recognized as a "Latino Legend of the 20th Century" by the Mexican-American Political Association.

In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Rep. Roybal the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.  In his remarks at the medal presentation, President Obama said of Rep. Roybal, “He left us nearly a decade ago, but Edward Roybal was and remains a hero to so many – not just Latinos but all Americans.”

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