In Memoriam: Lucille Beserra Roybal

The CSRC is very sad to report the passing of Lucille Beserra Roybal on December 23, two weeks before her 96th birthday. Roybal was a pioneering political activist for the Latino community and wife of the late Congressman Edward R. Roybal, whose extensive papers are a cornerstone of the CSRC archives. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Roybal family. The following tribute was written by the family.

January 5, 1917 - December 23, 2012
Mrs. Lucille Beserra Roybal passed away on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at approximately 3:00 AM.  She passed away peacefully in her sleep, two weeks before her ninety-sixth birthday.
Lucille Beserra Roybal was born on January 5, 1917 in Los Angeles, California to Manuel Albert Beserra and Prudenciana Moreno Beserra.  She was the third child of four siblings and was raised in the east side community of Boyle Heights.  Her father was a house painter and her mother a homemaker.  Both of her parents instilled in their children the value of education and encouraged academic excellence, as well as the value of justice for all.  Her ancestral lineage included Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (July 4, 1807 – January 18, 1890) the noted Californio military commander, politician, and rancher.
Lucille Beserra Roybal was a graduate of Roosevelt High School.  She married Edward R. Roybal in September, 1940.  Edward and Lucille Roybal had three children: Lucille, Lillian, and Edward Junior.  Congressman and Mrs. Roybal were married 65 years, until his passing in 2005.
Lucille Beserra Roybal was a founding member of organizations central to the development of Latino political power and community service including the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), the National Association of Latino and Elected Officials (NALEO), MANA (A national Latina advocacy organization), and the Latin American Professional Woman’s Association where she served as the chair of the Little Sisters Program.  In 1947, as a founding member of the Community Service Organization (CSO), she became one of the first Latina registrars of voters in Los Angeles.
In that capacity she helped to organize a Get Out The Vote campaign that deputized 125 CSO members as registrars. This resulted in the registration of 12,000 new voters in East Los Angeles. Ninety seven percent of those voters turned out to vote on Election Day, electing Edward R. Roybal as the first Latino to serve on the Los Angeles City Council in the 20th century.
In addition to being a political activist and integral leader within Mr. Roybal's Los Angeles City Council and Congressional campaign team, she lent her time, energy, and leadership to various grassroots and community based causes throughout her life.  Her civic and community work included involvement with the City of Los Angeles Health Department where she recruited Latina volunteers for childhood disease prevention immunization programs, pre- and post-natal care, Well Baby Clinics, and Tuberculin testing.  She also recruited and worked with Latinas in the American Red Cross and the League of Women Voters at a time when Latinas were tolerated, but not welcomed.
As a role model and pioneer, she successfully combined a dedication to public service and political activism with a deep love and commitment to her family and community. Her contributions to Latino political and cultural life are measured by the respect and acknowledgement she has received throughout her life.  In recognition of her contributions to Los Angeles and the Boyle Heights community, the City of Los Angeles named the Lucille Beserra Roybal Family Source Center in her honor.  In 1993, MANA presented her with “The Honoring Generations Award” and, in 1996 the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute honored Mrs. Roybal with the Medallion of Excellence for her distinguished service and tireless dedication to the Latino community in Los Angeles and throughout the Nation.
Lucille Beserra Roybal was a Latina pioneer, an icon, a visionary, and a true leader of service.  Her passing will reverberate throughout the country, and her spirit and good works will stay with us forever.