THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
Adelfa Botello Callejo
The Hispanic 100 Latina Living Legend Award
Video from the Adelfa Callejo website at www.adelfacallejo.com
Those of us who have the privilege of knowing this story, feel it must be shared with the rest of the world. It is a story that inspires us to courageously stand and work for our community. It also gives us the motivation to break through many obstacles and realize that we can conquer what seems impossible.
It is the dedicated and determined spirit of this woman that took her from a small country town where no opportunities for minorities existed, to become a true warrior with a quest for justice and equality not only for Hispanics, but for all. This story begins in Millett, Texas in a time when segregation and discrimination was rampant. Immigrant families had no access to higher education scholarships or even student loans – resulting in school dropouts, poverty and an uncertain future.
I was born on June 10th, 1923 in Millett, Texas. I went to segregated schools. People don’t realize that we had schools for Mexican children and schools for the Anglo children. So I’m a product of segregated schools. My father was a migrant worker. They had a second and third grade education, but they instilled in all of us the philosophy that we should have the courage to stand and if necessary to stand alone on any principle that we believed had value.
With the support of her father and the encouragement of her mother, Adelfa was the first one in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. A few years after, she attended law school. This stage in her life was not an easy one. Nevertheless, her perseverance and inner strength propelled Adelfa to become the first Hispanic woman to graduate from the SMU Dedmon School of Law in 1961.
If you want something badly enough you should be willing to do it. I decided that I needed an arsenal of weapons to achieve what I want to do. The first weapon I had was there. I had a law degree and that’s a powerful weapon.
Later on she became a member and the regional president of the National Hispanic Bar Association, a director of the State Bar of Texas and founder and president of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas. Always looking after better opportunities for Latinos. She has battled on behalf of many community issues. She has served on many boards, funded numerous programs and has supported many initiatives to provide a better education and future for our children.
Every single aspect of her life she’s been involved in help with education, you know, beginning with civil rights – I mean that are one of the critical parts of civil rights – education.
She’s a fighter. She fights for community. She fights for her family. She fights for her friends.
She was one voice that people heard. And it was one voice that also when she said she was gonna do something, she followed up on it and being a lawyer, she was able to advocate for these people both in a courthouse but also in the community.
Adelfa has not only been an unconditional supporter of causes important to Latinos, she’s also been a mentor.
For me watching her speak up and against disparities against Hispanics was so important. That it’s OK to say you’re not happy with what’s going on.
Part of her passion in the law was to make certain that she was successful; that her law practice was successful financially so that she could help others.
Adelfa’s strong leadership and vision helped create a great foundation for DFW to grow and prosper. And for the effort to become a leader in diversity and inclusion.
Adelfa Callejo is also a caring sister, aunt and friend. Although both of her brothers Gilbert and Felix have passed away, Adelfa is closer than ever to her two sisters Lily and Connie, her 12 nieces and nephews and her 16 grand nieces and nephews. Adelfa Callejo is also a loving wife and a true companion to her husband William “Bill” Callejo for 65 years.
Adelfa has no biological children, but she is Angel and guardian to many. By providing the tools and resources, she helps them achieve a better education and the opportunity to make a difference themselves one day.
I knew that I was meeting a living legend. That I was meeting and I have the blessing to meet the trailblazer that was going to fight very hard for our community.
She’s been like an aunt to all of us. She’s a warm person. She’s a listener. She’s always available to talk to you. She’s just been an incredibly special person for me, and I do greatly appreciate her.
Adelfa Callejo is worthy of our absolute admiration and respect. Adelfa’s strong resilient determination has helped her in the fight against cancer. Despite this difficult battle, at 88 years old, she is a full time working attorney regularly appearing in court and working at her office six days a week. Today we salute Adelfa’s achievements, but most of all we celebrate her triumph against this terrible disease.
She not only survived and she conquered it and she’s gone on with her personal and professional life. I think that should be applauded. She has fought with all her might.
Think about Adelfa Callejo and what she would do. And you know that she’d never give up and that many times would give me strength to continue and to continue fighting for community.
I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband who is my best friend and my family. I’m very grateful that they helped me achieve a life that I want to live.
Senora Adelfa Callejo we treasure your sincere heart and we are grateful for your willingness to dedicate your life to our community and a better future for our children. I want to thank you personally from the bottom my heart for everything you’ve done.
All of us have benefited tremendously in our lives for everything that you’ve done. That’s one of the things that I always remember about you. That working hard no matter what. You know that I hold you in the highest regard. I respect you in every way that I can. And I admire you.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Hispanic 100 Latina Living Legend Honoree – Mrs. Adelfa Botello Callejo.