Ronald Dellums (1936-2018)

August 23, 2018
Portrait at Dellums (fragment), U.S. House of Representatives.

Portrait at Dellums (fragment), U.S. House of Representatives.

Ronald V. Dellums, a tireless advocate for peace, justice, and equality, served his Oakland, California district for 27 years in the House of Representatives. A vigorous supporter of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, he carried on their example when he stated, at the beginning of his career in Congress, that he was committed to “ending the insanity of war, … the absurdity of repression and racism and discrimination and poverty and hunger and disease … I’m talking about freedom and peace and the ability of human beings to come together.”

It was fitting that he should be the honoree at the 54th anniversary of the VALB in 1991. At this event, he reflected on twenty years in Congress. Staying true to the ideals expressed at the onset of his career, his summing up concluded with a fervent message that reflected VALB’s own sentiments. “War, to me, is an anachronism. … Peace is an imperative voice of survival.”

Dellums had a profound appreciation of the Lincoln vets who had volunteered to fight fascism in Spain and repeatedly introduced legislation in Congress to provide U.S. veterans’ benefits to those Americans who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. 

VALB’s support of Dellums’ bill was expressed in a June 1979 letter from VALB Secretary Hy Wallach to journalist Pete Hamill:

“This bill gives official recognition to the fact that we were not premature anti-fascists, but the first fighters against fascism. World War II began in Spain in 1936 and ended in Japan in 1945.” Calling for Hamill’s support, he pointed out that Dellums’ bill was important because it set history straight.

“By fighting in Spain, we were not only fighting for Spanish democracy. We were not only defending the Spanish republic. We were also defending the interests, the integrity, the honor of our country. We were fighting in defense of the United States of America, and all its people. There is no group of people in this country who have a higher moral right to the designation, ‘veterans of World War II’ than we, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.”

Nancy Wallach is a member of ALBA’s Board of Governors.