In Honor of Peter Chaconby Representative Juan Vargas
Posted on 2015-01-09
in the house of representatives
Friday, January 9, 2015
Mr. VARGAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Peter Chacon for a
lifetime of selfless service and leadership to our nation and our
community. He served honorably in the United States Air Force during
World War II and in the California State legislature for over 20 years.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr. Chacon was raised in a home of modest means with three older sisters and three younger brothers. As a teenager, he would shine shoes and park cars in downtown Phoenix to help support his family. His father, Petronilo Chacon, served as a commander in Mexico to Pancho Villa's revolutionary Army and taught Mr. Chacon to fight for what he believed in with passion and determination, while defending the rights of those who could not do the same.
In 1943, at the age of 18 and in the midst of World War II, Mr. Chacon enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He served honorably for two years of wartime service as a Ball Turret Gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. During his service, he flew 35 successful missions over Germany. On one such mission, his plane was shot down and forced to crash land on a small island off the Italian coast where he and the rest of the crew were later rescued.
After the war, Mr. Chacon returned home as a hero and enrolled in San Diego City College and later San Diego State University where he received a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in school administration. He began a career as a teacher, where he discovered injustices facing Spanish speaking children in schools. In 1968, with the help of two friends, Mr. Chacon founded the Chicano Federation in an effort to unite the Latino voice in the San Diego community. One of the first accomplishments of the Chicano Federation was the creation of the historic Chicano Park in the Barrio Logan community. Chicano Park has come to be an important symbol of the Chicano Movement.
In 1969, Mr. Chacon decided to run for the California State Assembly in an effort the change the education system from within. Mr. Chacon was elected in 1970 to represent California's 79th assembly district, where he served for 22 years. He is best known for authoring legislation to create the California Housing Finance Agency, the Rural Housing Development Program, and the landmark Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program for the more than 230,000 limited English speaking students in the state.
Mr. Chacon was an inspirational leader in the San Diego community and his contributions will not be forgotten. He is survived by his four sons, Chris, Paul, Ralph and Jeff.