IN MEMORY OF THE HONORABLE DALIP SINGH SAUND
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Dalip Singh Saund- the internationally known Indian-born Member of U.S. Congress and earlier judge in California – passed away at his home in Hollywood, California, on Sunday, the 22 nd of April, 1973, at the age of 74. He leaves behind his widow, one son, two daughters and their families in the United States of America, a number of near and dear relatives in India besides a number of friends throughout the world.
‘Judge’ Saund was the elder brother of Sardar Karnail Singh, the retired Chairman of the Railway Board, Ministry of Railways.
Judge Dalip Sing Saund, the son of an Amritsar Sikh farming family, graduated from the University of Punjab in the eventful year of 1919 and after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy plunged actively into the political struggle for independence. Later he went to California, U.S.A., where he joined the Hindustan Ghadar Party. At the same time he studied at Berkeley and obtained a Ph.D. in mathematics. Under the sponsorship of the Sikh Temple Committee of Stockton, California, he published a book in 1930 titled My Mother India, a balanced reply to Miss Mayo’s Mother India. He spearheaded the demand for naturalization of the large Asian community in Southern California after World War II. This was realized in 1949 and he was one of the first of his community to be naturalized as an American citizen. He won his nickname ‘Judge’ from the time he was elected to this office at Westmorland where he gained attention by cleaning up a prostitution and narcotics ring. Later in the U.S. Congress for 6 years, he was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and toured Asia and some European countries. In 1958, he was invited by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru to address a joint session of Indian Parliament in the Central Hall.
Judge Saund set up a charitable trust with his personal donation of one lakh rupees for betterment of village life and education. This is being administered by his brother S. Karnail Singh for welfare of many good causes in Amritsar district and elsewhere.
On this sad occasion we are honoring the memory of a unique man who did all he could to make justice, equality and peace a living reality in his adopted country. As a young man living under the injustices of British rule in India, the words of Presidents Lincoln and Wilson meant a lot to him and the hopes these words excited in him brought him to this country. He loved to tell stories and all of his stories had a moral. Whenever he saw me he would say, Fred, sit down, I want to tell you a story, or Fred, sit down and let’s talk politics.
One of his stories was indeed a story of his life. During World War II there was a shortage of many things and they had to be rationed so that everyone could get a fair share. Among these scarce items was sugar. One day during the war a man sat down at a counter in a restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee with sugar. The waitress poured coffee into a cup, dumped in a spoonful of sugar along with the spoon, and placed it in front of the man. He took out the spoon, sipped to coffee and yelled at the waitress. “This coffee isn’t sweet enough.” Her reply was, “Mister, stir what you’ve got.”
“Stir What You’ve Got” –
That’s just what he did all his life and certainly during the time since I first met him in December 1954, right after Julie and I were engaged. What an exciting time that was when he was making plans to run for Congress only a few years after he finally succeeded in becoming a citizen.
He led the fight to overturn the unjust law barring him and other East Indians from citizenship and persisted until the law was changed. Thirty years after he came to this country he finally became a citizen and as soon as he did, he ran for public office as a Justice of the Peace. Even though he won in the election in 1950, he was not allowed to take his office because it was decided after the elected that he had not been a citizen long enough. His spirit and energy did not buckle after this set back and he went on to win again in 1952 and finally take office as Justice of the Peace in Westmorland.
He liked to tell a story about when he was running for Justice of the Peace. At a lunch counter in Westmorland one of the fellows he knew came up to him and said, “When you’re a Judge, are you going to make us wear turbans,” his reply was, “I don’t care what you wear on top of you head, it’s what’s inside that counts!”
His compassion for others and concern for justice showed up while he was a youth in India. As a boy he planted over a mile of trees by a road used by workers going to the fields so the workers could have some shade. He carried buckets of water on his shoulders to keep the trees growing. He also tried to bring down high interest rates that were keeping people perpetually in debt. He was outspoken in his war for Indian independence, and for his own safety his parents urged him to leave the country before the British put him in jail.
His sense of justice was keen and active. As a Judge he was not satisfied if someone tried to use technical legalities to cover up fraud. A water softener company was telling the people that the price of the water softener would be reduced by $20 for every name the buyer gave the company for a prospective sale. After the buyer signed a contract for the water softener, the company sold the contract to a finance company who would not honor the $20 refund. When the finance company took the buyers to court to collect the full price of the water softeners, the Judge investigated the relationship between the water softener company and the finance company. When he found that the companies were working together and in fact, occupied offices next to each other, he ruled in favor of the buyers.
The stories he told were ones people remembered. Bill Hargus, a good friend and neighbor of ours in San Diego, was with the Judge in the Brawley Toastmasters Club. About ten days ago, Bill told Julie about the time in Toastmasters when they were assigned the topic of education. The Judge got up and defined an educated man as one who could meet all situations he encountered in life.
From an alien who could not become a citizen to becoming a Congressman was a long story in which he showed that he could meet all situations.
The campaign in 1956 was an exciting time for all of us who were involved. The Judge lived in Imperial County which had only about twenty per cent of the vote. The campaign was in need of a lot of help from others, especially in Riverside County. Amy Croft’s trailer which she and Alice Teeple kept going on Magnolia Street in Riverside was a labor of love. E.H. Cain whose motto was Have Barbecue, Will travel for the Judge, provided crucial help in the Judge’s rallies. It was a close election and the campaign was a labor of love. Sitting up and waiting out the returns on election night in Riverside we were overjoyed when we finally realized he was going to win. It took dedicated people to make it possible to overcome great odds and succeed in this election. Again it was an example of STIR WHAT YOU’VE GOT!
His election to Congress was a dream come true. He loved this country and was so proud when he could cite his election as an example of living democracy. He loved the spirit in America and used stories to illustrate it.
One was about two shoe salesmen, one British and the other American, who were traveling together to an undeveloped country. When they saw that the natives wore no shoes the Briton telegraphed home “Cancel all orders, natives wear not shoes.” The American telegraphed home “Triple all orders, natives wear no shoes.”
Another was about a meeting at the United Nations when the main speaker was late. The Chairman assigned the delegates the task of writing an essay about elephants. The title of the German’s essay was The Warlike Interests of Elephants, the Briton’s title was Aristocracy among the Elephants, and the French man, The Amorous Life of the Elephant. The American’s title was How to Make a Bigger and Better Elephant.
As a Congressman he was honored by being appointed to two powerful committees in his first term, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Interior Committee. In both committees he showed his keen foresight on problems which are still with us.
On a trip to Vietnam in 1957 he learned that more foreign aid money per capita had been spent on South Vietnam than on any other country. The United States had paid for a radio station to be built in South Vietnam but when he was there he could not find it. Furthermore, he was given an armed guard escort to protect him while he was there. He was angry about the corruption in the South Vietnam government and warned his colleagues about the lack of support among the people for the government. This was way back in 1957, remember. His colleagues did not heed his warnings and we are still paying the price.
Closer to home, he was outraged by the way the Bureau of Indian Affairs was going to sell land of the Agua Caliente Indians for practically nothing. This small tripe of around 113 had had their land taken away from them much earlier and given a worthless part of desert land to live on. Later, this land became known as Palm Springs, a rich man’s playground but the Indians were in the way. The Judge finally succeeded in seeing that the Indians obtained a fair settlement.
He was also very pleased when he succeeded in getting a bill through Congress that made dates grown in foreign countries meet the same health standards as those grown in the Coachella Valley. The foreign dates could no longer be unfair competition to domestic ones.
He rejoiced in being able to do things to help people in his district. No one had to go to a lawyer in order to approach him. He felt very keenly that he was elected to represent his district and invited all to bring their problems directly to him.
What I have been saying is well known to most of you here. I hope all of us will match his faith in our country and work as hard as he did in helping overcome the problems we face now. When the going gets tough, remember his saying,
STIR WHAT YOU’VE GOT!