Civil rights activist Mario Obledo dies at 78

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The Modesto Bee file, 1998

Mario Obledo was known as the "Godfather of the Latino Movement" for his fight for humanitarian and civil rights causes.

The man called "The Godfather of the Latino Movement" has died. Mario Obledo suffered a heart attack Wednesday in Sacramento. His credentials are long - he co-founded MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was California’s secretary of Health and Welfare under Governor Jerry Brown.

Obledo was president of the National Coalition of Hispanic Organizations. He also co-founded the Hispanic National Bar Association.

During his tenure as state secretary he was credited with encouraging Latinos to go into politics.

Obledo also served on the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission and was a faculty member of the Harvard School of Law.

In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from President Bill Clinton. And in recent years, he and his wife spent much of their time doing humanitarian work between Mexico and the U.S.

Obledo was 78.

[Audio: John Trasvina once served as MALDEF’s president. He told KPCC’s Steve Julian that he and Mario Obledo go back many years.]

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