LOS ANGELES – MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) mourns the death of Gloria Molina, a trailblazing advocate and leader who was the first Latina elected to the California Assembly, Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.  Molina, 74, died Sunday.

Born in Montebello, California, Molina was a longtime supporter of MALDEF. It was a MALDEF lawsuit, known as, Garza v. County of Los Angeles, that led to the creation of the first Latino-majority seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Following a special election, Molina became the first woman and Latina elected to the board and served in that position for many years.

Beginning in 1989, Molina joined the MALDEF Board of Directors serving recurrently for a quarter of a century, and as board chair from 2000 to 2002. In 2014, she received the Valerie Kantor Award, presented to a former board member who has distinguished themselves in terms of their contributions to MALDEF and the Latino community.

Please attribute the following statement on her passing to MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas. A Saenz:

“Gloria Molina has no peer among Latino elected officials in California and nationwide.  She forged a unique and groundbreaking path of extraordinary service despite obdurate obstructions put in place by both entrenched enemies and ostensible allies.  Throughout her career, she always, without a single fail, placed community first.  And she always acted with integrity and tenacity in pursuing community needs.

“We are proud that service to MALDEF, on its board and as chair, was such a significant element of her ongoing commitment to community.  Her impact as a board member endures today, and she has indisputably earned permanent recognition as one of the most consequential board members in our 55-year history.

“I personally first met Gloria when I was a college freshman organizing a conference on the Latino vote in 1984.  Then an assemblymember, Gloria made the long trip cross country to speak to Latino students from colleges across the northeast.  She has been an omnipresent inspiration and guiding influence on me ever since.

“MALDEF mourns the loss, far too soon, of her invaluable counsel and support.  The nation has lost an incredible model of generosity, strength, and ironclad integrity.   We provide our most sincere and loving condolences to her family.”

Please attribute the following statement on Gloria Molina’s passing to Ambassador Vilma Martinez, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1973 to 1982:

“Gloria Molina worked tirelessly and effectively to advance our country’s commitment to equal protection before the law. MALDEF will forever be grateful for her leadership on its Board and beyond. Her inimitable voice will be greatly missed.”

Please attribute the following statement on Gloria Molina’s passing to Antonia Hernandez, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1985 to 2004:

“The Latina/o Community has lost a champion, and I have lost a soul mate.  We first met in 1975, when I was working on the case of Madrigal v. Quilligan, challenging the forced sterilization of Mexican women at LA County hospital. She was president of Comisión Femenil, representing the class of Mexican women in the suit. We shared a passion for improving the plight of the Mexican American community. Her keen intellect, passion, work ethic and strong sense of right made her a forceful advocate.  A proud Chicana, she embraced her culture and her community.  Gloria was a force of nature, she paved the way and opened doors. It is now left to those who follow to continue her work.” ​