Remembering the Legacy of Richard Chavez

by Secretary Hilda Solis on July 28, 2011 · 6 comments

There are people who touch the lives of others in real and unique ways and no one knows it.  These ‘angels on earth’ do big and small things everyday on behalf of their fellow man in quiet, unassuming ways.  Most of their work goes unnoticed — but their impact is felt by countless people, sometimes for generations.  When they leave this world, we mourn our loss and pray that someone else picks up their cause, fills the tremendous gap their passing leaves, and carries on their work.

Richard Estrada Chavez was one of those angels.  He was a designer and builder — not just of the iconic United Farm Workers’ logo, or homes for farm workers — but of a movement that has bettered the lives of vulnerable people for nearly half a century.

Secretary Solis poses with Richard Chavez after a departmental observance of Cesar Chavez Day.

Alongside his older brother, Cesar Chavez, and his life partner Dolores Huerta, he played a significant role in building the United Farm Workers and designing effective, community-based strategies that changed perceptions, laws, cultures and lives. For decades, the three of them were a force for positive change, making a difference for those laboring in the fields of Fresno, Calif., or the factories in Detroit, Mich.

As a child, he worked as a migrant farm laborer during the Great Depression, and later became a union carpenter.  He put both experiences to work to help create the farm workers’ union.  His record of achievement and lists of accomplishments are remarkable.  He headed the Martin Luther King Jr. Farm Worker Fund at the UFW, which provided health care for farm workers. He built and led the National Farm Workers Service Center, a first-of-its-kind effort to ensure that farm workers had affordable housing.  And he had the vision to use new ways of communicating to farm workers all over the country by helping to create Radio Campesina, a Spanish-language radio network. Still active and advocating in his retirement, he helped create and served on the board of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, named to honor and continue the work of the love of his life.

As the nation’s labor secretary, I see every day the benefits of his work, as well as the continuing need for it.

He was a quiet hero and his legacy will be his passion for justice.  Our nation is fortunate that his legacy will live on through the lives he touched.  My thoughts and prayers are of course with my dear friend and mentor, Dolores Huerta, as well as the entire Chavez family.   They too are part of the marvelous legacy of this special angel.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Passion for Debate - Richard July 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Very good post, the recognition of an excellent person

2 Brenda July 28, 2011 at 7:18 pm

A wonderful life of accomplishments, and well lived. Thank you for sharing this Tribute.

3 Tammy July 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

Thank you for posting and recognizing his hard work and dedication to a great cause.

4 tut July 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I must agree it was really an angel

5 Jerome Moore August 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Viva Richard! … and Viva Cesar and the UFW! … and Viva Hilda! Thanks for sharing this rememberance with the Nation. I “knew” Cesar and the UFW from the strikes in the late 60′s and early 70′s in and around Santa Maria, California. As a student at Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara, and as a conscientous objector of the Selective Service draft in those years, I helped picket stores and fields in suppport of the grape boycott and other activities of the UFW, and put into practice Cesar’s non-violenct philosophy. I cherish the memories of sharing dinner with all the UFW workers and supports at the union hall in Santa Maria at the end of a day’s picket. There have been no more inspirational figures in my life than Cesar and all the hard workers at UFW. Let hope the UFW can continue to grow and do good work in the future for farmworkers and their families.

6 Melanie August 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

VIVA the Cause!! VIVA Richard!! excellent post, tanks for sharing. the recognition of an excellent person!!

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