Thousands attend funeral of Cesar Chavez

April 30, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

DELANO, Calif. -- They were all his children, and they came to take him home.

An estimated 35,000 people participated yesterday at the funeral of Cesar Chavez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, who died in his sleep Friday at age 66.

Farm workers, Hispanics, old-time liberals and other supporters came from all over the country to honor the man many put in a class with Martin Luther King Jr.

"Cesar Chavez was a man of peace, a man of justice, a great leader for all Americans," said Dr. Dan Kelly, a member of the San Francisco Board of Education, who first met some of Mr. Chavez's workers during the grape boycotts of the 1960s.

Mr. Chavez, the one-time migrant worker who founded and led the first successful farm workers' union in the country's history, blended the goals of the civil rights movement with the struggle for work place justice, which lent appeal to his cause far beyond the world of migrant workers.

FTC Mr. Chavez brought self-respect and a ethnic pride to his people.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, the main celebrant of the funeral mass, called Mr. Chavez "a true prophet," like the Apostle James, who dedicated his life to championing justice and dignity for the poor.

Behind the coffin marched his widow, Helen, and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who adopted Chavez's cause in the '60s. Other dignitaries and celebrities included former California Gov. Jerry Brown; civil rights leader Jesse Jackson; two of Mr. Kennedy's sons, Joe and Robert Jr.; and actors Edward James Olmos and Ed Begley Jr.

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