An Oakland native, Ron Dellums grew up on Wood St in West Oakland, attended Oakland schools and graduated from Oakland Tech, Merritt College (AA), SF State (BA), and UC Berkeley (MSW). Ron served two years active duty in the United States Marine Corps.
Following graduate school, Ron worked as a psychiatric social worker for the California Department of Mental Hygiene. He then directed various programs in Bayview/Hunters Point before becoming Director of the Hunters Point Youth Opportunity Center. Subsequently, he was Director of employment programs for the SF Poverty program and then Senior Consultant on manpower programs for Social Dynamics Inc, a leading Bay Area consulting firm.
In 1967, he was elected to the Berkeley City Council and in 1970 to the US House of Representatives. He represented Oakland, Berkeley, and surrounding areas, in the Congress for 28 years, rising to become Chair of the House DC Committee and then Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
Initially elected in opposition to the Vietnam War, Ron became a recognized expert in military and foreign policy. He became the leading Congressional voice challenging the underlying assumptions of the military budget and brought forth annual alternative military and full U.S. (recognized by budget experts, including the Administration's budget director, as the most honest and accurate proposals under debate).
As Chair of the DC Committee, Ron converted the committee into the only Congressional committee focused on the problems of cities. The Committee addressed issues facing many urban centers including the unfunded pension liability of city workers, affordable housing, homelessness and mental health, the problems of urban infant mortality, the negative impacts on local tax bases of public and non-profit development (hospitals, universities, etc.), and the financial inability of city governments to finance adequate and appropriate urban services for their residents.
On the Armed Services Committee, Ron used his leadership positions to question US policy and brought about the first real strategic debates on military policy in the post-Cold War world. He led successful fights to stop the misguided MX missile system, to limit the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars") and B-2 bomber programs, as well as other expensive and unusable nuclear war-fighting weaponry. As important, his leadership resulted in substantially improvements in the working and living conditions of those serving in the military and their families. Despite opposition to US military policies, Ron continually fought to better the conditions of the men and women who were the instrument of these policies.
From his first days in Congress, he authored bills to withhold support from the Apartheid South African regime and it was the Dellums bill that passed the House and made divestment US national policy with Congress over-riding a Reagan presidential veto. This divestment pressure helped the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to win the release of Nelson Mandela and his election as President of a democratic South Africa.
Ron was a leader on the environment, labor, consumer issues, and civil rights and was continually acknowledged by the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation voters, the AFL-CIO, the National Organization of Women, Public Citizen, among many others, as having a perfect voting record.
In addition to representing his district's views in the Congress, Ron was exceptionally effective in bringing home substantial federal funds for the benefit of Oakland. His achievements included: the dredging of Oakland’s harbors indispensable for maintaining the competitiveness of Oakland as a major port, while restoring wetlands; bringing jobs and anchoring downtown development with the new Federal Building and related development (despite aggressive lobbying to have it located in SF); the creation and development of the Chabot Space and Science Center; as well as monies for BART, AC Transit, health centers, HIV/AIDS programs, senior housing, and for the economic conversion of the Naval Air Station and Oakland Army Base.
Throughout his career, Ron used his office to bring parties together, to remove obstacles, to break down bureaucracies, and to get things done. When Port dredging seemed stalled, he brought the parties together and found solutions acceptable to the previously warring interests of the Port, the environmental community, labor, and the Corps of Engineers. Similarly, Ron was instrumental in resolving countless labor disputes and in working the various bureaucracies on behalf of the victims of the Oakland fire.
He is the author of several books, including a recent autobiography Lying Down With the Lions: A Public Life from the Streets of Oakland to the Halls of Power as well as Defense Sense: The Search for a Rational Military Policy.
Since leaving Congress, he has been President of an international management company and a leading spokesman on the tragedy of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the world. He was Chair of President Clinton's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS.
Ron is married to Cynthia Dellums and has 4 children.