1 minute read

Dennis Chavez: 1888-1962: Legislator

Earned Law Degree

In 1916 Chavez sought his first political office, that of Bernalillo County Clerk. He also campaigned with U.S. Senator A. A. Jones, who was running for re-election, again working as an interpreter. Chavez lost his own election bid, but Jones won his race and brought Chavez on board as a clerk. Once in Washington, D.C., Chavez fulfilled his dream of attending law school, graduating from Georgetown University School of Law in 1920.

Chavez then returned to Albuquerque, where he set up a law practice and began to earn respect as a criminal lawyer. He also remained active in the Democratic Party and was urged to run for New Mexico's attorney general. Chavez, however, felt pulled toward the legislature and in 1922 was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Within his state, Chavez gained notoriety when he sponsored legislation to provide free textbooks for children in public schools. Riding his wave of popularity, Chavez ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1930, handily winning the election and taking office in 1931. In Washington Chavez continued to support education and sponsored a bill granting New Mexico public land for education, including a college in Portales and a Spanish-American school in El Rito. Chavez also sponsored the Pueblo Lands Bill to sort out Indian land claims.

After two terms in the House, Chavez ran for the U.S. Senate, facing the incumbent, Republican Bronson Cutting, in 1934. Defeated by about 1,200 votes in a bitter election, Chavez accused the Republicans of voter fraud, and the election went under investigation. However, before the investigation was complete, Cutting died in a plane crash and the governor appointed Chavez to fill out the remainder of Cutting's term. Chavez would hold the seat through five more elections until his death in 1962.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyDennis Chavez: 1888-1962: Legislator Biography - Self-educated At Local Library, Earned Law Degree, Wielded Power, Influence In Senate