Tibo Chavez, New Mexico Lt. Governor, Senator, and Judge

Tibo Chavez lost his race for governor of New Mexico in 1974, but left a rich literary and public service legacy.

The talented politician served in all three branches of state government.

Educated at the University of New Mexico and Georgetown University, where he earned a law degree, Chavez published New Mexico Folklore of the Rio Anajo in 1940. He served in the U.S. embassy in Chile during World War II.

Returning home, Chavez served in all three branches of government, starting in the state senate, to which he was elected in 1948, three years after the war’s end. Chavez legislated there through 1974, where he held a number of posts, including that of majority leader. He took a leave from the senate to serve two terms as New Mexico’s lieutenant governor in the early fifties. He was the fifth Hispano to occupy the post after New Mexico became a state in 1912.

After the failed run for governor, Chavez practiced law full time until he secured a position as district court judge, a post he occupied from 1979 to 1991.

Among his legislative achievements was the 1949 Fair Employment Practice Act that outlawed discrimination in hiring and promoting. Southern segregationists had filibustered U.S. senator Dennis Chavez’s FEPC bill to death in 1946, making it necessary for civil rights advocates to pass measures at the state and municipal levels.

Chavez also served as chair of the American Council of Spanish-Speaking People, with affiliates throughout the Southwest and Illinois. The council operated in the 1950s as an important civil rights network. Members included CSO, GI Forum, and LULAC.

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For Hispanos, the office of lieutenant governor proved less elusive than that of governor during the first fifty years following statehood. The position was originally elected separately from the office of governor and, prior to 1940, candidates were nominated at party conventions and not through the primary ballot.

Tibo Chavez was proceeded in the post of lieutenant governor by Jose de Baca (1923-1924), Louis Cabeza de Baca (1935-1937), Ceferino Quintana (1941-1943), and Joseph Montoya (1947-1951).

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