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Linda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator

Difficult Childhood Lead To Early Action

Chavez's childhood was not an easy one. Born into a working class family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 17, 1947, she was raised in Albuquerque and Denver, where her family moved when she was nine years old. Her father, Rudy, a Hispanic descended from 17th- and 18th-century Spanish and Mexican settlers who had come to Mexico as merchants and wool traders, worked in his family's real estate business and later launched his own contracting business. However, all of Rudy's businesses were compromised by his problem drinking, which grew progressively worse over time. Chavez's mother, Velma, of English and Irish descent, worked for the U.S. Post Office when Linda was younger but later become involved in retail sales. Although Chavez encountered little discrimination during her early years in Albuquerque, she began to experience some of the prejudice practiced against Hispanics after the family moved to Denver.

Chavez experienced great personal tragedy during her childhood, losing three of her four siblings by the time she was 12. When she was only five, her half-sister, Pamela, was put up for adoption. Dickie, an older half-brother, was killed in a car accident, and her younger sister, Wendy, succumbed to kidney disease. Adding to the tumult of her childhood, Chavez was entrusted to the care of relatives frequently when her parents were unable to care for her. As a result, she had attended six schools in two states by the time she reached third grade. This childhood upheaval, Chavez said in an interview posted on the Stop Union Political Abuse (SUPA) website, "gave me what has been described as my 'cool,' 'tough' demeanor. But that emotional reserve and toughness also enabled me to face crises in public as well as my private life."

Chavez's exposure to such prejudice galvanized her into action, and she soon became involved in civil rights campaigns to secure the rights of Hispanics and other minorities, including African Americans and women. While still in her teens, Chavez picketed a segregated department store in downtown Denver. The realization that many of her fellow citizens considered minority members intellectually inferior motivated Chavez to excel academically to prove such prejudiced assumptions groundless. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the University of Colorado in nearby Boulder, working her way through college to a bach-elor's degree in education in 1970. It was during her undergraduate studies at Boulder that Chavez first began to develop misgivings about the government's affirmative action policies. She helped launch a program to tutor Mexican-American students who had been admitted to the school under affirmative action. According to a SUPA website interview, what she witnessed was disillusioning: "Instead of giving students the remedial help they needed in order to succeed, the activists who ran the programs spent their time indoctrinating students in the politics of racial grievance. No one benefited. Not the kids, many of whom dropped out or barely made it through, often by taking ethnic studies courses that ill-prepared them to earn a living afterwards. Nor the schools, which lowered standards to admit the affirmative action students and then offered watered-down curricula to keep them there."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyLinda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator Biography - Difficult Childhood Lead To Early Action, Deemed "not Minority Enough", Experienced Political Transformation, Advanced Conservative Causes