A devoted public servant for 43 years, the Honorable Edward R. Roybal was at the forefront of efforts to advance
civil rights, protect civil liberties, establish mental health programs, fund AIDS research, and improve support
services for veterans and the elderly. In 1976, he founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, creating a national forum for Latino issues and
opened doors for a new generation of Latino leaders.
Congressman Roybal served as President of NALEO from 1976 until 1991, when the NALEO Board of Directors
named him President Emeritus. He also served as Chairman of the NALEO Educational Fund from 1981 to 1994,
and remained on the Board until 1999, when the Board named him Founder Emeritus. In 1999, the NALEO Board
of Directors established the NALEO Edward R. Roybal Award for Outstanding Public Service, an award that provides
an opportunity for Latino elected and appointed offiicals to recognize the exemplary leadership provided by their
colleagues in communities throughout the United States. Congressman Roybal guided the organization from
being an idea to becoming the nation's premier civic participation organization. Executive Directors who worked
with Congressman Roybal included Mr. Edward Avila, Dr. Harry Pachon, Karen Escalante (acting), and current
Executive Director of NALEO and the NALEO Educational Fund, Arturo Vargas.
“Edward Roybal embodied the irrepressible desire of each generation of Americans to fulfill the dream of a
meritocracy...a nation where every person is a full and active contributor. This gala and the people we honor allows
us to pass on his legacy of public service as the highest calling to another generation of Latinos. I know you share my
pride in being part of this organization, founded by Edward Roybal.” says NALEO President Alex Padilla.
“Thank you for upholding the Roybal tradition.”
Edward Roybal was born on February 10, 1916 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the age of six, his family moved to
the Boyle Heights barrio of Los Angeles where he attended public schools, graduated from Roosevelt High School,
and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, then later continued at the University of Los Angeles, where
he studied business administration, and at Southwestern University, where he studied law. From 1942 to 1944 he
was a public health educator for the California Tuberculosis Association. In 1947, Roybal ran unsuccessfully for a
seat on the Los Angeles City Council. With his supporters, he created the Community Service Organization (CSO).
As president of the the organization, Roybal led a crusade against discrimination in housing, employment, and
education. In 1949 the CSO held voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives in East Los Angeles and supported
Roybal's bid for election to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949. He won, becoming the first Latino to win a seat on
the Los Angeles City Council since 1881, and was subsequently reelected and served until 1962.
In 1962, Roybal became the first Mexican-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California.
In the House, Congressman Roybal established a reputation as a staunch civil liberatarian while working on such
issues as immigration rights, education, and health care. As a member of the Appropriations Committee and as
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government, Congressman Roybal
was one of the thirteen cardinals of the House of Representatives. He was also one of the ranking members of
the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee. His post on the powerful Appropriations
Committee enabled him to work for federal funding for health and education programs, and bilingual education.
Congressman Roybal was a major catalyst in the establishment of the House Select Committee on Aging and
served as its chairman from 1982 to 1993. He was widely recognized as a national leader in securing adequate
health care and housing for older persons and was one of the first Members of Congress to introduce legislation
to establish a national health plan for the United States. In 1992, he chose not to run for reelection. That year his
daughter, California Assemblymember Lucille Roybal-Allard, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
where she represents part of his former district. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard today serves on the Board
of Directors of NALEO Educational Fund, representing the Roybal family.
During his three decades of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Roybal worked to protect the rights
of minorities, the elderly, and the physically challenged. Throughout his career he received numerous honors
and awards, including two honorary law degrees from Pacific States University and from Claremont Graduate School.
In 1973, Yale University honored him with a visiting Chubb Fellowship. On January 8, 2001, President William J. Clinton
presented Congressman Roybal with the prestigious Presidential Citizens Medal of Honor. Most recently, he served
as a consultant to the Institute of Applied Gerontology, which bears his name at California State University, Los Angeles
and also served as President of the Edward R. Roybal Foundation, which is dedicated to providing scholarships
to deserving students to attend college.
“Edward Roybal was a visionary whose 43 years of public service expanded opportunities for Latinos across the
country,” states NALEO Educational Fund Chairman Juan C. Zapata. “Without question, the recent historic
achievements of our community would not have been possible without Edward Roybal’s passion and firm belief
that everyone has a voice in democracy. Indeed, the steps he took years ago have opened the doors for many.”
His passion and legacy of increased Latino political participation live on in the work of the NALEO Educational Fund.