Ron Dellums, MSW
By Janlee Wong, MSW
A great historical social worker, Mr. Ron Dellums, 82, passed away July 30, 2018.
One of the great stories I heard Mr. Dellums tell is how he began his career in social work. He received his MSW from the School of Social Welfare at University of California, Berkeley and thought he would become a clinical social worker. He began working with clients in the community when one of them said to him that he wasn’t interested in “talking” and that all he needed was a job.
Hence, Mr. Dellums embarked on a social activism, social justice social work career and we are all fortunate that he chose this path. A Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Dellums got his start in politics by getting elected to the Berkeley City Council. Shortly thereafter he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on an anti-Vietnam War platform. Incredibly, he was appointed Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
Not only was he an anti-war activist in Congress, but he also began an anti-apartheid campaign, which resulted in a sanctions bill against the white government of South Africa. It was vetoed by President Reagan, but overridden by Congress, the first override in the 20th century.
Throughout his Congressional career, Mr. Dellums opposed defense spending and supported the closure of military bases. He argued that money was better spent domestically. In 1990, he and his colleagues sued President Bush in the first challenge that a President could not go to war without a declaration of war from Congress.
After retiring from Congress, Mr. Dellums was recruited to run for the Mayor of Oakland. There he continued to apply progressive ideas including zoning to encourage job development, hiring local residents, affordable housing and a green economy. He argued that the police should answer to community complaints of harassment and violence, which earned him their enmity.
Mr. Dellums wasn’t perfect, but he wore his values and ethics proudly. He is one of our best examples of an activist social worker who pursued and attained much in the way of social justice.