Friday, 9 January 2009

Dalip Singh Saund

Dalip Singh Saund (September 20, 1899–April 22, 1973 pictured shaking hands with President John F.Kennedy was a member of the United States House of Representatives. He served the 29th district of the state of California from January 3, 1957 to January 3, 1963. He was the first Asian American, Indian American and Sikh member of the United States Congress. Unbelievably he is to date the only Sikh to have served in Congress. Dalip was born in Chhajulwadi, Punjab, India and received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Punjab in 1919. He emigrated to the United States, originally to study agriculture at the University of California, Berkeley. While at the university, he obtained a master's degree (1922) and a Ph.D. (1924), both in mathematics. His stay was suppose to be for 3 years but, thereafter he decided to remain in the United States and became a successful farmer. Later, he campaigned to allow "Hindus," as all people of South Asian descent were identified at that time, to become naturalised citizens. After the Luce-Celler Act was passed in 1946, he applied for naturalization and became an American citizen in 1949. He ran for election in 1950 as a Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland township, California, and won the election, but his election was thrown out as he had been a citizen for less than a year. He later ran again for the same post and was elected again. In November 1955, he announced a campaign to run for the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat and won an election for an open seat against a famous Republican aviator, Jacqueline Cochran. He was re-elected twice, becoming the first member of a non-Abrahamic faith to be elected to Congress. In May 1962, he suffered a severe stroke which left him unable to speak at all, or walk without assistance, thus ending his congressional career.

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