Former labor organizer whose efforts lead to one of the nation's largest Latino social service providers
LOS ANGELES - Dionicio Morales, a former labor organizer whose efforts helped lead to one of the nation's largest Latino social service providers, died Wednesday. He was 89.
Morales died of natural causes at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, said his daughter, Magdalena Morales.
He was organizing garment workers in the early 1960s when he decided to do something to help residents of the largely Hispanic neighborhoods east of downtown Los Angeles who lacked health care, job training, child care and other services.
He created the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in 1963 and called the White House for help. He was referred to the Mexican Embassy, where by chance then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson was meeting with Mexico's ambassador about the same issue.
Morales eventually persuaded the vice president to meet with members of the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles. Johnson later helped his foundation secure funding from the Department of Labor.
The Mexican American Opportunity Foundation provides services including English classes and immigration assistance mainly to people with low and moderate incomes.
Born in Yuma, Ariz., in 1918, Morales was raised near Moorpark, then a small farm town, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. For a time he lived in a tent with other workers in the area's apricot and walnut groves.
He said he learned first-hand the need for health care and other services after several friends and relatives too poor to see a doctor died in a tuberculosis outbreak.
Condolences to the family of Dionicio Morales.