The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) joins the Virgin Islands community in mourning the death of Ron De Lugo who led the territory as a career public servant for almost four decades. De Lugo served four terms as senator in the Legislature of the Virgin Islands and became the first elected congressional delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1972. He served 10 terms in the United States Congress, achieving sufficient seniority by 1989 to become chairman of the Interior Subcommittee on Insular and International Affairs.
Among his many accomplishments was the passage of legislation formally designating the University of the Virgin Islands as one of the country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2014, UVI honored De Lugo with an honorary doctorate for his lifetime of service to the Virgin Islands.
“The Virgin Islands has lost a pioneer who played a pivotal role in the social, economic and political development of the territory,” said UVI President David Hall. “Congressman Ron De Lugo dedicated his entire career to expanding the rights and improving the lives of his fellow Virgin Islanders. He advocated tirelessly to ensure the Virgin Islands received federal funding for critical infrastructure. Indeed, he leaves a tremendous legacy in Virgin Islands history,” said Hall. “On behalf of the UVI community, I offer my deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones as we remember him with great pride.”
UVI professor of political science and history, Malik Sekou, Ph.D., recalled De Lugo’s adept ability to communicate with different audiences. “He was a native Virgin Islander who was skilled both at being able to connect with his constituents as well as engage with influential politicians on a federal level. That was his gift,” said Sekou. “He was highly regarded in the community by governors, senators, fellow congressmen and the movers and shakers of his time. His greatest contribution was setting a high standard for the office, cultivating an image and an expectation by which his successors would be measured,” said Sekou.
Congressman De Lugo had many accomplishments including ensuring the Virgin Islands was included in the Federal Airport Development Aid Program that provided funding to complete expansion of Cyril E. King Airport, major improvements to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, expansion of the Crown Bay Dock and reconstruction of the Frederiksted Pier. He was instrumental in securing state-like treatment for the Virgin Islands under the Federal Highway System, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies. He also sought the protection of the territory’s unique status outside the U.S. Customs Zone.
His Alien Adjustment Act of 1982 brought resolution to the long-standing, divisive issues caused by the uncertain status of temporary workers by making them and their families eligible for U.S. citizenship. He legislated the title transfers of Water Island to the Virgin Islands, the National Park on Hassel Island, and the creation of a National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve at the Columbus Landing Site at Salt River.
His bills also brought to the people of the Virgin Islands a Supreme Court appellate system and jurisdiction over its surrounding submerged lands. In his last term, a long-held goal was realized when the then Speaker of the House Thomas C. Foley agreed to give congressional delegates from the territories and the District of Columbia the right to vote in the Committee of the Whole in the House during the 103rd Congress. De Lugo retired from public office in 1994.