UNT Park Makes Room for Statue of Civil Rights Lawyer

Photo by Elias Valverde II

Main Street Garden Park has a new permanent resident, a 1,000-pound bronze statue of Mexican-American civil rights lawyer Adelfa Callejo. The figure of Callejo depicts her wearing her trademark boutonniere and thick hair tied back in a braid, smiling in the direction of the Dallas College of Law of the University of North Texas. 

After struggling to decide where to place the statue — which Mexican artist Germán Michel completed over six years ago — many feel she has finally found the perfect home. Callejo was posthumously honored by UNT in 2018 and named “a Texas legal legend” for her lifetime’s work of advocating for the rights of women, immigrants, and other disenfranchised groups.  

Civil Rights author and UNT professor of law Cheryl Wattley thinks that the statue will serve as an inspiration and reminder to students. “Having her positioned to look at the law school is a charge to our law students to… never forget that the law degree is about service.”  

Another person who is glad that the statue has finally found a home is Callejo’s nephew and executor of her estate, J.D. Gonzales. He says he has received many calls over the years since Callejo’s death from people lamenting her loss and wishing she was here to weigh in on current events. “I am overjoyed to see someone with such an extraordinary history to finally be paid tribute for what she did not just for Hispanics, but for women and all citizens,” said Gonzales. 

Callejo started on her path to activism at nine years old when she translated for her immigrant father during a protest of the treatment of Mexican children by a local school district. During a 2006 march protesting federal immigration policies, Callejo addressed the thousands of people assembled and told them, “In my family, it was un-American to not protest.” 

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