Latino Community Mourns The Loss Of Dionicio Morales, Arizona Native And Civil Rights Leader

MAOF founder, and a Mexican American legend

August 28, 2008

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, joins the nation and Latinos everywhere in mourning the loss of Dionicio Morales, a beloved leader of the Latino civil rights movement. “MALDEF was privileged to honor Dionicio Morales last year for his lifetime of dedication to equality for Latinos. From his earliest teen years when he integrated the local Ventura County movie house to later fighting poverty to advising U.S. Presidents, Dionicio Morales was courageous and unwavering. He has built the foundation upon which MALDEF and others stand for civil rights, fair treatment and advancement for Latinos” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel, John Trasviña.

Frank Quevedo, Board Chairman Emeritus added, “Our community, state and the nation have lost a storied and towering leader with the passing of Dionicio Morales. Mr. Morales brought passion and conviction to his work and advocacy on behalf of Mexican Americans and Latinos. As founder and leader of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation he inspired successive generations of Latinos and Latinas to become dedicated to the cause of equal rights and equal opportunities.”

Dionicio Morales

Dionicio Morales has devoted his life effort working to secure equality of employment and economic opportunity for persons of Mexican decent. To this end he has built an organization which has endured and prospered through four decades to become of the nation’s leading Hispanic community service agencies. His strategy has been to forge a winning partnership with the private sector, the government, organized labor and the community.

As founder in 1963 and then President of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, an East Los Angeles based organization, Morales has developed skill training programs; child care centers: a handyman program to repair low-income homes; a nutrition program for elders; an employment services program; an information and referral service to find proper child care in public and private agencies; a legalization assistance program for immigrants and Food a Service Bank for the Hispanic hungry in East Los Angeles. MAOF has child care centers and outreach offices from Monterey County to the Mexican border.

Besides developing a chain of childcare centers which serve over 2000 children daily, MAOF’s new strategies for overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers in pre-schoolers using special computer software are studied as a model nationwide.

On the international level, Morales developed a U.S. – Mexico Liaison Committee, which has annually conferred with top Mexican authorities to promote better mutual understanding.

Appointed by then Governor Ronald Reagan as State Apprenticeship Commissioner, Morales headed the State committee to insure minority involvement in building and construction apprenticeships, where he served for four years. He has served as advisor to the California Employment Development Department, on the Los Angeles County Manpower Council (LACMAC), and was on the National Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Labor, serving under both President Nixon and President Carter. During the Clinton Administration he was appointed to the North American Development Board Advisory Committee. Morales also served as a Board Member on the National Council of Senior Citizens in Washington, D.C. and on the U. S. National task Force On Hispanic Affairs.

In 1987, the county Supervisors of Los Angeles, renamed a historic lake and park in East Los Angeles, calling it Dionicio Morales Plaza, in recognition of 30 years of devoted community service.

It is a testimony to both Dionicio Morales and the Mexican-American Opportunity Foundation that his efforts in getting Mexican Americans into policy-making positions in government and in the private sector have enhanced their visibility nationally but no one knows better that there is work still left to do and now he is able to focus his efforts with the same fiery passion that earned him prior recognition and success.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund