(Senate - February 14, 2013)

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[Page S767]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                     REMEMBERING FABIAN CHAVEZ, JR.

 Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, on Sunday, January 20, 
my State lost a great leader and a great friend. It is my privilege to 
pay tribute today to Fabian Chavez, Jr. He was blessed with a long 
life, 88 years old when he passed away. More important though was the 
impact of his years, the impact of his remarkable life. Fabian Chavez, 
Jr., made a difference in the lives of so many people in New Mexico.
  Fabian was a formidable, and very colorful, figure in the history of 
New Mexico politics. His story was one of triumph and of defeat, and of 
an unwavering determination to serve. He will be long remembered as an 
advocate for justice, for the disadvantaged, and for ethical 
government. He was also instrumental in passing legislation to 
establish the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, which has 
done so much for improving health care in our State.
  Fabian Chavez, Jr., was born on August 31, 1924. His father was a 
carpenter, and moved the family from Wagon Mound to Santa Fe, where 
Fabian was born and would live most of his 88 years. Early on, the New 
Mexico Capitol would dominate his life. And he would dominate it in 
  His father worked as the building superintendent at the old capitol 
building. As a young boy, trying to earn pocket money during the Great 
Depression, Fabian could be found there shining shoes. He later told 
his biographer that while other kids were playing marbles, he was 
watching legislators at work, following their every move. He observed, 
``I had it all memorized years before I was even elected to my first 
term in the house.''
  Fabian was an independent spirit. Even as a youngster, he charted his 
own course, sometimes perhaps to his parents' dismay. The story is told 
of his hitchhiking to California at age 12. He joined the Army at age 
16, determined to see battle during World War II. He fought at Normandy 
and the Battle of the Bulge.
  At the age of 25, Fabian met Coral Jeanne, the love of his life. 
Fabian and Coral Jeanne were married in 1954. Of his beloved wife, 
Fabian once said, ``I started dancing with Coral Jeanne in 1949, and 
we've been dancing ever since.'' She would be his unfailing support 
through the victories and defeats to come, until she died in his arms 
over a half century later.
  Most of us, in public life or out, are shaped by our wins and our 
losses. This was certainly true in Fabian's long career. He first ran 
for elective office in 1948, at the age of 24, for a seat in the New 
Mexico House. He came in second in the primary. He was undeterred, as 
he would show time and again. He was elected 2 years later. He ran 
unsuccessfully for the New Mexico Senate in 1952, but was elected in 
1956. And within a few years, at age 37, he became the youngest Senate 
majority leader in the history of our State. In 1968, Fabian was the 
Democratic candidate for Governor, and lost by less than 3,000 votes. 
He later served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President 
Jimmy Carter.
  The title of David Roybal's biography of Fabian Chavez, Jr., ``Taking 
on Giants,'' is telling. Fabian was a reformer, and a tenacious one. He 
fought to change the old justice of the peace system in New Mexico, 
fought to establish a Judicial Standards Commission, fought powerful 
insurance and liquor industries, fought early on, and courageously, for 
civil rights. Whatever the opposition, he stayed the course. Elections 
would come and go. Some he would win. Some he would lose. But he stayed 
true to his commitment to the people of New Mexico.
  My dad once said that there are two stories of our lives. One is the 
person you wanted to be. The other is the person you are. While none of 
us gets that exactly right, I would suspect that Fabian came pretty 
close. He held true to his principles. He fought for what he believed 
was right. He leaves behind a legacy of accomplishment and integrity, a 
legacy that his family, and our State, can take great pride in.
  Jill and I extend our sincere condolences to Christine and to all the 
Chavez family. Fabian Chavez, Jr., was a true son of New Mexico, and he 
did all of us proud.