News Column

Dionicio Morales--Hispanic Civil Rights Hero and Social Entrepreneur was 'an Urban Cesar Chavez'

Sept. 25, 2008
Dionicio Morales

One of the heroes in the U.S. Hispanic civil rights movement passed away yesterday, leaving a sadness in the hearts of everyone who knew him, but also a vibrant and powerful legacy in the fight for equality and opportunity.

Dionicio Morales, 89, died at 7 p.m. September 24, at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, California due to complications from kidney failure. He is survived by his wife, Maria, his inspiration and lifetime partner, his two daughters, Margarita, an educator and an eloquent and philosophical messenger of his vision, and Magdalena, who is the safe keeper and overseer of his legacy, her twin brother, and his sons, Dionicio Jr. and Tim, a community activist. Mr. Morales will long be remembered as the founder of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MOAF), which remains the largest Hispanic nonprofit in the nation.

His low-profile, but persistent approach was a key to his many victories in fighting segregation and prejudice in America. His ability to win over corporate America opened multitude of doors and ultimately jobs for tens of thousands of U.S. Hispanics. His personal relationship with Pres. Lyndon Johnson allowed MOAF to flourish and win significant victories for Hispanics. He modeled the transition from civil rights community activism to successful social entrepreneurship in the 1960s and 70s. With great patience and energy, he defined his market, secured funding to access and serve that market and lifted MOAF to great heights. He remains the epitome of social entrepreneurship. Martin Castro, who succeeded Mr. Morales as president of MOAF in 2001, called him, "An urban Cesar Chavez."

Among those familiar with his life's work Mr. Morales was widely respected. An exception among many exceptions of his generation, he was an innovator with a can-do spirit.

Mr. Morales was a friend and inspiration to everyone at Hispanic Business Media. He was a true hero, spending his life pursuing his vision of an America where all Hispanics have equal opportunities in education and the workplace. We are sorrowed by his passing, yet we celebrate his exemplary life and tremendous achievements that have opened the doors for so many. will air a special video feature on the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Mr. Morales tomorrow.

Click here to view a historical photo slideshow of Dionicio Morales

Other past Hispanic Business coverage of Mr. Morales:
Open Door for Opportunity

It Began with a Dream

Quiet Man with a Vision

We invite you to share your remembrances, thoughts, and well-wishes for Mr. Morales' family and friends, either in the comments section below or email

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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