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Edition for Educators—Dalip Singh (Judge) Saund of California | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

Opening Day of the 85th Congress (1957–1959) brought with it the usual hustle and bustle of a new session. Members and their families mingled on Capitol Hill, making new acquaintances and catching up with old friends. From the rostrum, Texas Representative Sam Rayburn prepared to begin his history-making eighth term as Speaker of the House. Among this excitement, a small swarm of video cameras from the U.S. Information Agency and the Columbia Broadcasting System surrounded a new Congressman from California as he raised his right hand to take the ceremonial oath of office. Dalip Singh “Judge” Saund was the first Asian Pacific American lawmaker to serve in Congress since 1946, and he was the first Asian Pacific American Representative ever elected to Congress with full voting rights.In observation of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this Edition for Educators spotlights the life and congressional career of California Representative Dalip Singh Saund.Featured Biographical ProfileDalip Singh (Judge) Saund of California In November 1956, D. S. Saund, who everyone simply called “Judge” after years as an Imperial Valley magistrate, became the first person of Asian descent elected to serve as a United States Representative. He was a tireless champion of his southern California district and the farmers who called it home. But his unique backstory—born in India, naturalized U.S. citizen, successful businessman, county judge—also catapulted him to the international stage. During Saund’s three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, he prioritized agricultural assistance, foreign outreach, and improving infrastructure and economic opportunity within his district. At the height of the Cold War, Saund became something of a transcendent politician who had the singular ability to engage audiences abroad. Although he frequently confronted discrimination during his life in the United States, Saund maintained his belief in the promises of American democracy.Featured ExhibitionsAsian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress Since 1900, when Delegate Robert M. Wilcox of Hawaii became the first Asian Pacific American (APA) to serve in Congress, 70 APAs have served as U.S. Representatives, Delegates, Resident Commissioners, or Senators. This web exhibit is based on the book Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900–2017, and lays out the journey of APA representation in Congress up to the present. Like other minority groups who were previously unrepresented or excluded, some APA Members including California Representative Dalip Singh Saund eventually came to see themselves as “surrogate representatives” legislating for APA constituencies nationwide and far beyond the borders of their states, territories, or individual House districts, though this was far from a universal sentiment. And, as their numbers increased, their careers progressed from pioneers to apprentices to power brokers with their own issues caucus. Additionally, the story of APAs in Congress—like the experiences of women, African-American, and Latino Members on Capitol Hill— has been written overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives.The Bracero Program In the House, Representative Dalip Saund worked to support the agricultural needs of his rural constituents across California’s Imperial Valley. The Bracero Program, authorized by Congress in 1943, created a system for seasonal farm workers from Mexico who could assist in planting, harvesting , and railroad maintenance. Saund touted the program in his election campaign and supported funding for the initiative in Congress. Over time, however, he grew critical of both the program’s implementation and what he viewed as its detrimental effect on domestic farm laborers. Read more about the Bracero Program in this essay from Hispanic Americans in Congress.21st-Century Portrait Commissions In 2002, the House of Representatives began an initiative to identify noteworthy former Members with significant legislative achievements or symbolic importance in House history who did not fall into the limited categories of Representatives who traditionally had portraits painted—namely, Speakers of the House and committee chairs. Over the next decades, portrait commissions resulted in wider representation of historical Members of Congress and of more contemporary approaches to portraiture within the House Collection of Art and Artifacts. Dalip Singh Saund’s portrait, included at the top of this blog, was added to the House Collection in 2007.Featured Objects from the House CollectionFeatured Historical HighlightsRepresentative Dalip Saund of California On April 22, 1973, Representative Dalip Saund of California died in Hollywood, California. Born in Amritsar, India, Saund became the first Asian-American Representative with full voting rights to serve in the House of Representatives in the 85th Congress (1957–1959) in 1957. Saund served a total of three terms in the House. During his campaign for re-election to the 88th Congress (1963–1965), he suffered a stroke on a flight to Washington, DC. He remained hospitalized at Bethesda Naval Hospital for the remainder of his unsuccessful campaign. Saund eventually returned to his home in California, but never fully recovered from his stroke.This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.