Renowned Civil Rights Advocate was Dedicated to Eradicating Poverty, Improving Latino Lives

LOS ANGELES, CA - MALDEF mourns the loss of Dr. Henry J. Casso at age 82. Dr. Casso, a renowned civil rights advocate and MALDEF founding Board Member, dedicated himself to eradicating poverty and improving the lives of Latinos across the nation.

Dr. Casso was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1957, though he later left the priesthood. He was a founding member of "Padres Asociados para Derechos Religiosos, Educativos, y Sociales" (PADRES), a national organization of Latino Bishops and leaders of the Catholic Church committed to spreading awareness on poverty, and he tirelessly worked to address the needs of Latinos in low income areas as the Founder of the San Antonio Don Bosco Youth Center, and former Vicar for Urban Affairs, and Executive Secretary of the National Bishops Committee for the Spanish Speaking.

An educator, Casso created the first Massachusetts Undergraduate Teacher Training Bilingual Program at the University of Massachusetts, where he received his doctorate in Education. He was Founding President of the National Institute for Professional Development in Albuquerque, and Project Uplift, where he prepared New Mexican students for high technology careers. Project Uplift spread to Texas and Colorado, reaching over 90,000 middle school and high school students.

Dr. Casso was recognized as a Latino Legend by AT&T, and was honored by numerous Latino organizations including New Mexico LULAC's Medal of Honor Award, and Hispano Round Table's "Walking the Talk" Award. Dr. Casso was also Co-Chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico Land Grants and Acequias Committee.

MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, stated, "MALDEF salutes Dr. Casso and mourns his passing. We are grateful specifically for his role in shepherding a young MALDEF as a founding Board Member, and more broadly for his lifetime of contributions to advancing Latino civil rights and to promoting educational achievement among Latino students. His life is an inspiration, and his legacy will continue as a result of the lives he touched and immeasurably improved."

Former New Mexico Attorney General and former MALDEF Board Chair, Patricia Madrid, stated, "Not only is this a great loss for New Mexico, but also for the national Hispanic community."

MALDEF Board Member, Maria Estela de Rios, stated, "I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Henry Casso. He was a role model for those of us who worked to further educational opportunities for Latinos. His passion for education and his keen sense of social justice allowed him to foresee impediments to our communities' progress and fought to remove them. In the 1970's and 1980's, Dr. Casso began advocating for STEM education for minorities decades before our country moved to emphasis its importance and relevance both to our global competitiveness and economic security. He was a true visionary."

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

For all media inquiries, please contact Larry Gonzalez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund