Dr. Bernice King, The King Center family, and Board of Directors join the world in mourning the loss of Helen Fabela Chávez, a courageous advocate of civil rights, a quiet heroine, a devoted mother of eight, and widow of the renowned American civil rights leader, Navy veteran, and hero, Cesar Chávez.
Mrs. Chávez and her husband forfeited their middle-class life for one of sacrifice, danger, and struggle to work in the fields with their friends and neighbors. As a result of their change in social status, the Chávez family was relegated to and experienced first-hand the cruelty and injustice that poor migrant workers endured on a daily basis. They worked together courageously to organize Mexican farm workers who were oppressed and abused by the denial of livable wages, unfair labor laws and inhumane working and living conditions. My mother was proud to march with Chavez's husband, Caesar Chavez, in California, Florida, and Atlanta. In 1974 she recognized him with the King Center’s highest honor, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, for his uncompromising dedication to nonviolent social change.
Mrs. Chávez was an invaluable partner to her husband, helping him to establish and sustain the United Farm Workers of America. Like my mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, she often found herself raising her children alone as her husband fought on the front lines of the movement for the rights of farm workers. She sacrificed, marched and was as committed as her husband to the cause of justice.
We are all inspired by the dedicated life of Mrs. Helen Chávez, a champion for justice and the dignity of all humankind. She will be sorely missed in God’s vineyard of love and mercy.