By Bishop Kevin J. Farrell
Publisher of The Texas Catholic
Adelfa Callejo lived to give a voice to the voiceless. Her death, after a long battle with cancer, has left a great void in our community. But, because of her, Dallas is a better place.
Born and reared in South Texas, she moved to Dallas after high school and began night-school studies at Southern Methodist University. She had a strong determination to become a lawyer which was sparked by the childhood memory of the deportation of an uncle without a hearing.
“A law degree is a powerful weapon,” she often would say. Adelfa was awarded hers in 1961 when she became the first Latina and only the third woman to graduate from the SMU School of Law. She used her weapon well, advocating for minorities in voting rights, education and drop-out prevention, housing, social justice issues and immigration.
She recognized that education is the first step toward empowerment, and with her husband and law partner, Bill, donated $1 million to create the Adelfa B. Callejo Leadership and Latino Studies Professorship at the SMU Dedman School of Law, her alma mater.
Many honors and recognitions for her service include the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission for Opportunities, The Martin Luther King Justice Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mexican American Bar Association of Texas.
In 2013, the Dallas Independent School District honored her by dedicating the Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School, named in her honor.
Thanks to her example and passion, there are many others ready to continue her work for social justice, but none can take her place.