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Dalip Singh Saund

"Triumph and Tragedy of Dalip Saund"
Written by Tom Patterson
Published originally in California Historian in June 1992
(The author is a columnist and Riverside Historical Society Member.)
Mr. and Mrs. Saund
Mr. and Mrs. Saund

The world took note when in 1956 Dalip Singh Saund, native of India, was elected to the U.S. Congress from the 29th California District, which then comprised Riverside and Imperial counties. He was the first Asian to be elected to the Congress.

There's no telling how far Saund might have risen in public life if he hadn't suffered a disabling stroke early in his campaign for a fourth term. He remained an invalid until he died in 1973.

Earned Mathematics Degree

Saund was born in 1899 in a village called Chhajulwadi, Punjab Province, India, to an uneducated but industrious and successful family with a background of Sikh reformism and activism. He went through a local school which, in the absence of public schools, was financed by his father and uncles. He graduated from the University of the Punjab in Amritsar, earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

Like many others of his status, Saund was inspired by British promises of independence for India to follow World War I and was chagrined when that promise was abandoned. He was inspired by the writings of Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. He was favorably impressed by the preachments of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the great Hindu exponent of non-violent struggle for independence.

The young Saund persuaded his family to support him in a plan to study food canning in America, with the intention of returning and starting an Indian canning industry.

Dalip Saund
Dalip Saund

"I assured my family," he wrote in a 1960 autobiography entitled Congressman From India, "that I would study in the United States for at least two and not more than three years and would then return home."

At the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied at first in the College of Agriculture, he lived in a clubhouse maintained by a Sikh temple group in Stockton — evidence that there was already a complement of refugees and visitors from India to California, most of them having arrived during World War I as agricultural laborers.

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