People Across Texas Paying Tribute To Adelfa Callejo

By Reginald Hardwick
|  Saturday, Jan 25, 2014  |  Updated 10:41 PM CDT
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People from many walks of life remembered Adelfa Callejo. The longtime attorney and civil rights activist passed away late Friday. She was 90 years old and fighting her fourth bout with cancer at the time of her death.

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News

People from many walks of life remembered Adelfa Callejo. The longtime attorney and civil rights activist passed away late Friday. She was 90 years old and fighting her fourth bout with cancer at the time of her death.

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People from many walks of life remembered Adelfa Callejo. The longtime attorney and civil rights activist passed away late Friday. She was 90 years old and fighting her fourth bout with cancer at the time of her death.

A Memorial Mass will for Callejo will be held Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of our Lady of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas. It is open to the public.

Members of the Latino community in North Texas were saddened at the news of her passing.

Callejo was a strong voice for the community over several decades and those that knew her say she was determined to make a difference.

"She really did have a major impact on the history of Dallas," said Mercedes Olivera, a columnist for The Dallas Morning News. "Her legacy is going to be large, bigger than life because she was a bigger than life kind of person."

Olivera says Callejo will be remembered for her work on many issues, but most notably for commitment to improve education and mentoring other Latina attorneys.

"It's definitely being a role model, being a trailblazer for Latina women especially," Olivera said. "I mean, she is known as "La Madrina," the Godmother."

Callejo broke barriers in 1961 as first Hispanic woman to graduate from Southern Methodist University's law. She practiced law for 45 years and served in leadership roles in various bar associations and won numerous awards for her work as an attorney and civil rights activist.

"We're going to miss her greatly, because she was at the forefront of all the changes that occurred in this community," said Hector Florez, past president of LULAC.

She especially fought for change at the Dallas Independent School District, showing up regularly at board meetings. Last April the district named an elementary school for her.

"There's no way I can say thank you enough," Callejo said at the school dedication

But with her passing, it's the community she helped now saying thank you for her guidance, passion and all she did for the Lation community in Dallas.

"She mentored a lot of our leaders today," Olivera said. "And a lot Latinos who've gone on to do similar things in civil rights."

"I'm going to remember her as a person who never gave up, she was a person who worked seven days a week," Florez said.

"I think she was really determined to do something in life to help other Mexican-Americans," Olivera said. "She set out to be a leader, she set out to be a millionaire, she set out to be an icon."

The following statements were issued: 

Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez remembers civil rights activist Adelfa Callejo:

Adelfa Callejo will be missed, but her impact lives on. She was one of the first in Dallas to effectively challenge the status quo related to barriers for minorities' advancement. She did so always in a thoughtful and respectful manner, bus she never faltered and never gave up. Our City is a better place because she cared so much about our community.

Sandra Fernandez, principal of Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in Dallas:

 
The faculty and staff are deeply saddened by the news that Ms Adelfa Botello Callejo passed away this morning. We had the honor of meeting her last year at the school dedication. Our students also had an opportunity to meet her and hear her tell them that education was the key to their future. We will always remember Ms Callejo for her strong spirit, her dedication to promoting education and her "you can do anything" attitude!  Ms Callejo made countless contributions to our society and we will never forget her. At Callejo Elementary, we will continue to strive for excellence in her memory. A special moment of silence will he held on Monday morning to honor her memory.
 
Southern Methodist Univesity President R. Gerald Turner:
 
“Adelfa Callejo spent her life championing the cause of civil rights,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “After graduating from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1961, she used her legal education to fight injustice wherever she found it, providing a role model for students and supporting Dedman Law in a way that provided opportunities for others. We mourn her passing, but always will be proud of her association with and strong support of SMU.”
 
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D) Fort Worth: 
 
"We mourn the passing of Adelfa Callejo, who was a leader, hero and mentor to people across North Texas. In her long life, Adelfa Callejo was a tireless advocate for Texas families and their right to vote. She was a champion for education, and Texas communities are stronger and better off because of her work. My thoughts and prayers are with her family today."

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