Lahori Ram: A Trailblazer in California’s Economic Development

Lahori Ram: The Immigrant Who Shaped California's Economic Future

Lahori Ram, a trailblazing figure in Californian economic development, was born in a Ravidasia family in Lalwan, Punjab, India. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Punjab, Ram’s journey to the United States began on an auspicious note.

On August 15, 1972, coinciding with India’s Independence Day, he embarked on a transformative path, driven by the hope that this significant day would bring him good fortune in his new homeland. Arriving in the United States on a student visa, he aimed to further his education with postgraduate studies in economics.

Upon landing, with no immediate connections or plans for accommodation, Ram’s initial days in America were challenging. However, his determination and resilience saw him through.

Friends of friends welcomed him at the airport, providing him with the initial support he needed. Ram soon made his way to Yuba College in Yuba, California, where he pursued a master’s degree in foreign affairs. To support his education, he worked as a farm laborer in Fresno during summers, harvesting and processing peaches, prunes, and almonds for a modest wage of 75 cents an hour.

Career and Contributions of Lahori Ram

In 1976, Lahori Ram began his professional journey with the U.S. Postal Service at the San Francisco International Airport branch. Over the years, he worked in various capacities, from a registry clerk to a mid-level manager, before retiring in 1994. Despite being offered upper-level management positions, Ram declined due to the lack of overtime pay, which had been a crucial aspect of his financial strategy.

Working 55-60 hours a week, including most holidays, his dedication and hard work began to pay off. In 1979, he purchased the family’s first home in San Bruno, which he later sold in 1984 to invest in apartment buildings. This strategic investment led to the acquisition of the Country Club Apartments in South San Francisco in 1994, a property that significantly appreciated in value over the years.

Socio-Political Involvement

Lahori Ram’s contributions were not confined to his professional endeavors. In 1981, he co-founded North America’s first Sri Guru Ravidas Temple in Pittsburg, California. This temple became a significant religious and cultural hub for the Sikh and Hindu communities. Ram was also a generous philanthropist, donating to various charitable causes and frequently speaking at local temples.

His foray into politics began in the 1990s when he started fundraising for political candidates. This involvement led to his appointment to the state Technology Trade and Commerce Committee by state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton in 1997. Three years later, he was appointed to the state Transportation Commission, where he oversaw Caltrans projects across California.

Lahori Ram’s political acumen and dedication earned him a prominent position as the Economic Development Commissioner of California in 2002, appointed by Governor Gray Davis. In this role, he advised the governor and the Legislature on vital economic issues, contributing significantly to the state’s economic policies and development.

Legacy and Recognition

Lahori Ram’s social and philanthropic contributions were widely recognized, culminating in a tribute in the US House of Representatives. Congressman Jackie Speier delivered a heartfelt obituary speech, commemorating Ram’s legacy and his impact on society. His life’s work left an indelible mark on the political, economic, and social fabric of California.

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