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Celebrating Black History in the Pacific Rim: Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Oakland, CA.

Occupying two city blocks right in the heart of Oakland’s City Center you’ll find two 17-story towers linked by a 75-foot circular rotunda at the base and a two-story sky bridge on the 13th and 14th levels. Two five-story wings connect to the towers, creating a landscaped plaza that leads to the main entrance of the rotunda. The Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was named after the city’s 48th mayor and former congressman. The building was constructed in 1993 as part of the Oakland Redevelopment Project. Its exterior is clad with beige and white limestone, tinted green glass and the towers are capped by pyramids of stainless steel. 

Ronald V. Dellums was born and raised in Oakland, California. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning home and furthering his education receiving a Master of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962. His career as a political activist in the African American community began not long after.

Elected to the 92nd Congress, Dellums introduced more than 200 pieces of legislation from 1971-1973, including The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, established as law on October 2, 1986.

Although he was frequently outspoken and maintained views in opposition of military projects, Dellums became the first African American to serve on the Armed Forces Committee for the 93rd Congress from 1973-1975. Dellums wanted a complete understanding to be well versed in military affairs so that he would be able to better argue the merits of his views on military oversight. With efforts to support equality, he was amongst the few to vote yes on the ballot in a vote to end the abolishment of homosexuality in the armed forces. His doing so was the first time he voted in favor of any defense spending bill. He would later be named Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee in 1994. 

Having served as U.S. Representative of California's 9th Congressional District from the 92nd to 105th Congress –14 terms – Dellums resigned from service in 1998. He continued work as a lobbyist and dealing in political affairs until he was elected as Mayor of the City of Oakland in 2006, at 70 years of age. “You just asked an old guy to come out of his comfort zone and play one more game”, he once said in reference. Dellums passed away on July 30, 2018, as a result of health complications.

His dedication, hard work, boldness and forward-thinking have created a lasting legacy and significant impact on Black History, his local community and across the nation. In 1998, Congress passed a bill naming the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in his honor. The Building Owners and Managers Association named it The Outstanding Building of the Year® (TOBY), receiving an International Award in the Federal Building Category in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

The Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse features several public artworks and showcases works of art by artists such as Oliver Jackson, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Ed Carpenter, Arthur Stern and Joseph Di Stefano.

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