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David Adame, Houston Mexican American civil rights leader, WWII vet, who helped organized historic JFK visit, dies at 95

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David Adame, right, with the Kennedys and Houston attorney John J. Herrera.

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David Adame, a Houston-area Mexican-American civil rights leader, who helped organized the historic meeting between President John F. Kennedy and LULAC the night before the president was assassinated, died Tuesday, LULAC National President Margaret Moran announced.

Adame was 95 and had been suffering for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Born in Houston in April 11, 1918, Adame served in the U.S. Army during WWII and saw action in the Pacific. 

After being discharged in 1946, David attended the Southwestern Business College in Houston where he majored in Business Administration, and he began working as an insurance salesman. 

In 1948, after WWII Medal of Honor recipient Macario Garcia was denied service at a Richmond, Texas cafe, Adame joined other Mexican American veterans by becoming a member of LULAC, then the largest Latino civil rights group in the nation. He would hold a number of local, state and national offices but he remained active in Houston’s LULAC Council 60. . He served as a volunteer with restaurateur Felix Tijerina, in the formation of the “School of 400”, which later became known as Head Start. 

When attorney John J. Herrera worked behind the scenes to get President Kennedy to attend a planned LULAC gala at Houston’s Rice Hotel, Adame jumped to help organize the event and convinced other LULAC members from around Texas to attend, though the event was not publicized and organizers were unsure if the president would even attend. Kennedy did attend, however, marking the first time a U.S. president ever addressed a Latino group.

Kennedy spoke at the gala and First Lady Jackie Kennedy then addressed the crowd in Spanish, sparking cheers of “Viva Kennedy!” throughout the packed ballroom at Houston’s Rice Hotel. In a LULAC newspaper of the event, Adame is shown on stage next to the Kennedys and Herrera.

The president was assassinated the next day in Dallas.

Later as LULAC Texas State Director, Adame was instrumental in the creation of multiple LULAC Job Placement Centers throughout Texas, which soon led to the initiation of the non-profit employment organization, Operation SER (Service, Employment, Redevelopment). David then served as State Chairman on the Board of Operation for SER until 1968.  

David is survived by his wife Tina Adame and their four children: David, Anthony, Andrea, and Juanita.

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