January 26, 2014
DALLAS (SMU) – Civil Rights champion and community leader Adelfa Botello Callejo, the first Hispanic woman to graduate from SMU Dedman School of Law and the first to practice law in Dallas, has died at the age of 90.
She died Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer.
“Adelfa Callejo spent her life championing the cause of civil rights,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “After graduating from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1961, she used her legal education to fight injustice wherever she found it, providing a role model for students and supporting Dedman Law in a way that provided opportunities for others. We mourn her passing, but always will be proud of her association with and strong support of SMU.”
After spending many years of her professional career fighting for fair access to quality education, Callejo and her husband, Dedman Law alumni William Ferdinand Callejo ‘66, committed a gift of $1 million in 2004 to Dedman School of Law to establish and support the teaching and research efforts of a nationally renowned scholar in the field of leadership and Latino studies. The inaugural Callejo Roundtable, the program phase of the professorship, was held in 2011.
Adelfa Callejo's service to her alma mater also was reflected in her work on the Dedman School of Law Second Century Campaign committee and as a member of the Dedman School of Law Executive board since 2002.
The SMU Women’s Symposium recognized Adelfa Callejo in March 2006 for her decades of service to the Hispanic community, her leadership in the promotion of Hispanic organizations, and her achievements as a leader in the Dallas community. She received Dedman Law’s 2006-2007 Robert G. Storey Award for Distinguished Achievement and was named a Dedman Law Distinguished Alumni in 1996.
Adelfa Botello was born June 10, 1923, in Millet, Texas, and graduated from Cotulla High School in 1939. After a stay in Dallas, she moved to California where she started her own import-export business and, through which, met her husband. They returned to Dallas, where she worked as a secretary during the day while studying simultaneously for her B.A. and J.D. degrees at SMU. Adelfa Callejo graduated from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1961 when she was 37, and received her Bachelor of Arts from SMU in 1964. She and her husband formed the legal firm of Callejo and Callejo after his graduation from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1966. Adelfa Callejo's nephew, Felix Cedric Botello, received his J.D. degree from SMU in 1986.
Adelfa Callejo co-founded the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas, now known as the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, and was the past regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. She was admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966.
She co-founded the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas, now known as the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, and was the past regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. She also was a member of the Dallas Together Forum; a member and trustee of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute; a member of the Dallas Hispanic Citizens' Council; chairman and founder of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations; a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Dallas; a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); a member of the Commission on Mexican American Affairs; a member of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and a member of the American G.I. Forum.
In 2012, Adelfa Callejo was appointed to The 50th Committee, which oversaw the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. She was an officer, with her husband, of the Callejo-Botello Foundation.
Adelfa Callejo was honored with numerous awards during her career, including The Ohtli Reconocimiento recognition award from the Mexican Government; the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism Sandra Day O’Connor Award; the Texas Peace Officers Association's Humanitarian Award, the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award; theLULAC Hispanic Entrepreneurship Award; the Hispanic National Bar Association Juarez-Lincoln Award; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award from the Dallas Bar Association; the Dallas Women Lawyers Louise B. Raggio Award; the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award; the Equal Justice Award from Legal Services of North Dallas; the 2010 La Luz Achievement Award from the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association; the 2011 Latina Living Legend Award from Hispanic 100 and she was named a Texas Legal Legend by the State Bar of Texas in 2012 for her work in the community and legal profession.
In 2009, the Dallas Independent School District board voted to name an elementary school for her and the campus, Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary, is in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas. The awards and recognitions Mrs. Callejo has received over the years were on display as part of the Dallas Public Library's exhibit, "100 Years, 100 Women," in the summer of 2008.
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