Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva released the following statement today on the passing of Richard Chávez, who helped organize the United Farm Workers alongside his brother César E. Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the 1960s:
“Richard Estrada Chávez was a true and profound inspiration to a generation of labor and civil rights activists, including me. His role in the farm worker struggle in the fields taught thousands of us, motivated and hungry for justice, how to organize and work for a better community. The original ‘Yes, We Can!’ – ‘Si, Se Puede!’ – was born from this struggle, and Richard was at the forefront. I was fortunate to call him a mentor and a friend. We marched together in Yuma, San Luis, and in Tucson, and he was always motivating, helping and encouraging the rest of us. Richard Chávez was a tremendous advocate for working Americans and a real icon to many of us. He was true salt of the earth. I will miss him.”
Richard Chávez was born on November 12, 1929, in Yuma, Arizona. He began working as a migrant farm worker at the age of 8 and moved to San Jose, California, as an adult to work as a union carpenter. He gave up on his trade to help his brother César Chávez and Dolores Huerta organize farm workers in central California, and form the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).
Richard Chávez designed the famous black eagle UFW logo, which became a symbol of the Mexican-American civil rights struggle. During his years in the UFW, Richard Chávez served in numerous capacities. He oversaw the construction of the Delano, California, Union Hall, as well as the many UFW clinics and headquarter offices; served as the first director of the National Farm Workers Service Center, which provided affordable housing and social services to farm workers; co-founded la Campesina, the UFW radio station; served as executive director of the National Farm Workers Health Group; and worked as Vice President of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).
Richard retired from the Union in 1983 but remained active as a popular national speaker and on the Board of Directors for the César Chávez Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Richard Chávez has visited Tucson many times for the annual César Chávez march and for the renaming of the César Chávez Building at the University of Arizona. Richard has spoken to students at Pima Community College, University of Arizona, Sunnyside High School, Tucson High School, Luz Academy, and many other schools.
He is survived by ten children, his life partner Dolores Huerta, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. His brother César died in 1993.