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Farm worker advocate Richard Chavez dies

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • He dedicated more than 30 years to the movement
  • Richard Chavez is the younger brother of Cesar Chavez
  • He died Wednesday from complications from surgery

(CNN) -- Richard Chavez, who dedicated more than three decades to the the farm worker movement, died Wednesday of complications from surgery in Bakersfield, California, the United Farm Workers union announced. He was 81.

The younger brother of UFW founder Cesar Chavez, Richard Chavez was the one who designed the black Aztec eagle that became the famous symbol for the organization.

The Chavez brothers grew up during the Depression outside of Yuma, Arizona, and when the family lost their farm, they became migrant farm workers in California fields, according to the UFW.

By the early 1960s, Richard Chavez began helping his brother create the foundation for the union, and by 1966 was working full-time for the movement, the UFW said on its website Wednesday.

"Throughout his years of service, Richard fought for basic labor rights but also worked to improve the quality of life for countless farm workers," President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday. "Richard understood that the struggle for a more perfect union and a better life for all America's workers didn't end with any particular victory or defeat, but instead required a commitment to getting up every single day to keep at it."

According to the UFW, Richard Chavez, who was also a carpenter, oversaw construction or helped build important parts of the union's "Forty Acres" complex outside of Delano, California.

"Richard retired from the union in 1983, but always remained very active with the movement, fulfilling public speaking engagements and serving as an active board member of both the Cesar Chavez Foundation and Dolores Huerta Foundation," the UFW said.

Cesar Chavez died in 1993.