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Benny Martinez, Latino civil rights leader, dies at 85

In this March 11, 2013 photo, Benny Martinez, a Mexican American civil rights leader who helped organize the historic Latino gala with President John F. Kennedy, stands in front of a gun collection at his Goliad, Texas, home. Martinez, 85, died Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, of natural causes. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

GOLIAD, Texas (AP) – Benny Martinez, a Mexican American civil rights leader who helped organize the historic Latino gala with President John F. Kennedy, has died.

His daughter Loretta Martinez Williams says Martinez died Sunday of natural causes. He was 85.

Born in Goliad, Texas, Martinez served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

He returned to Houston and organized boycotts against businesses that refused to hire Mexican Americans.

Martinez joined the League of United Latin American Citizens and helped organize a gala for Kennedy the night before the president’s assassination.

Historians say the meeting was the first time a sitting president met with a Latino civil rights group.


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