LULAC Mourns the Passing of Civil Rights Trailblazer Mario Guerra Obledo

August 20, 2010

Contact: Lizette Jenness Olmos, (202) 833-6130 ext. 16

Past LULAC National President and co-founder of MALDEF, Obledo also served as California Secretary of Health and Welfare and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Washington, DC – IThe League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, mourns the passing of a great leader, Dr. Mario G. Obledo, who died Wednesday afternoon in Sacramento, California, at the age of 78 with his wife, Keda Alcala-Obledo, by his side.

Known as the “Godfather of the Latino Movement,” Obledo, held local, district, state and national offices at LULAC including the position of LULAC National President from 1983 to 1985. He was a leader of the Latino community for more than fifty years.

“Mario Obledo was a champion of civil rights and a trailblazer for the Latino community,” said LULAC National President Margaret Moran. “His tremendous leadership and uncompromising defense of the Latino community is legendary. Under his leadership, LULAC grew into a progressive force for change…a legacy of advocacy that we carry on to this day.”

Obledo was one of the co-founders of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and served as its President and General Counsel until 1973. Under Obledo's leadership, MALDEF's funding level and full-time staff grew dramatically as he opened new offices in Denver, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

In 1975, Obledo was appointed Secretary of Health and Welfare for the state of California by Governor Jerry Brown, a position he held until 1981. In this capacity, he was instrumental in bringing thousands of Hispanics into state government which he believed to be the greatest accomplishment of his life.

Obledo served as Chair of the National Rainbow Coalition from 1989 to 1993, and he was co-founder and President of the National Hispanic Bar Association. He is also a co-founder of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and he served on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Commission. Obledo was also the Founder and President of the National Coalition of Hispanic Organizations.

His accomplishments in law, advocacy and civil rights were recognized in 1998 when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, this country's highest civilian award, from then President William J. Clinton.

Obledo is also the recipient of the OHTLI award, the highest award bestowed by Mexico on a foreigner. He held a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Doctorate of Law from St. Mary's University in San Antonio. Dr. Obledo received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the California State University, Sacramento in May 2010 and was a faculty member of Harvard School of Law.

Dr. Mario G. Obledo was married to Keda Alcala-Obledo and resided in Sacramento, California.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating through 850 LULAC councils nationwide.

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