LA City Councilwoman Jan Perry remembers meeting Mervyn Dymally, still California's only African-American Lieutenant Governor. "He enjoyed mentoring younger people in politics," Perry says. Dymally, whose achievements span four decades, died Sunday at age 86. Ted Chen reports from Leimert Park for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2012.
The first and only African-American man to be elected lieutenant governor of California, Mervyn Dymally died Sunday. He was 86.
Dymally’s political accomplishments – including being the first African-American elected to the California State Senate and serving six Congressional terms – spanned four decades.
Dymally was a titan among politicians, and he began his career when there were few African-American elected officials.
Los Angeles City Council Member Jan Perry, who is now running for mayor, remembers meeting Dymally when she first entered politics.
"He endorsed me when I first ran for office," she said. "He gave me lots of guidance. He enjoyed mentoring younger people in politics."
Dymally worked to improve education and access to health care for his South Los Angeles constituents.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said he always made time for people seeking his time and advice.
"He was always very generous, always very open, always willing to give advice, because he's been there," Hutchinson said.
Dymally had already made his mark in California politics when he surprised many people by running for State Assembly at the age of 76. And won.
His final chapter in politics gave him a forum to share stories from his early days, like the time Robert Kennedy lectured him in 1960 at a campaign event.
"Bobby Kennedy came up to me," Dymally said in 2009. "He stuck his finger in my chest and said, ‘Why aren't there more Negroes here?’ I said, ‘Your brother is not popular in the Negro community.’ He said, ‘You make him popular.’"
Hutchinson said Dymally's appeal went beyond African-American voters, or he never could have become lieutenant governor. He was a model for other African-American politicians trying to build coalitions, including President Barack Obama.
"Merv did that 40 years ago," Hutchinson said.