Today on April 8, 1888, Dennis Chavez, the first U.S. born Latino elected to the U.S. Senate was born in New Mexico.
Chavez made history by becoming the first person of Hispanic descent to be elected to a full-term as a U.S. Senator, holding office from 1935 to 1962. And in spite of much progress with Latino representation in the U.S. Senate, he remains the longest-serving Hispanic U.S. Senator to date.
Chavez was born to a traditional Catholic Hispanic family with 7 brothers and sisters and was called early on to help support the large family. Despite demands on his time and limited resources Chavez studied to be an engineer and then a lawyer, graduating from Georgetown University Law School in 1920. During his studies he often served as an interpreter for English-speaking Democratic candidates when they visited Spanish-speaking areas of New Mexico.
The call to serve his community came to Chavez a few years after graduating law school. In 1922 he was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives and in 1935 was selected to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy followed by winning a full-term to the Senate the following year.
Chavez was known for his conservation and education legislation. He is also remembered for the creation of the Good Neighbor Policy for Latin America and his work on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Pan American Highway project.
Chavez died in Washington, D.C. on November 18, 1962 and was honored by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson who eulogized the history-making Latino at his funeral, stating:
“Chavez was a man who recognized that there must be a champions for the least among us.”
HSN Staff Writers
HSN staff writers are a group of enthusiastic and talented creative-types that generate great story lines and write about current events with a distinctively Latino voice always respecting the audience it writes for.
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