The Legacy of Bobby Lee Verdugo, A Leader Of East LA WalkoutsBreaking News
tags: obituaries, racism, civil rights, Los Angeles, 1960s, Chicano movement
At his Lincoln Heights high school in the late 1960s, Bobby Lee Verdugo was a popular football player and gentle jokester, with teasing eyes peeking out from under bushy brows. His playfulness got him in trouble, especially when he spoke Spanish. The teacher would march him to the front of the class to get paddled.
"As a young Chicano, I want to be tough, so you don't want to complain too much," Verdugo recounted to Latino USA in 2018. "But it hurt the spirit, you know. Little by little, they were breaking me."
It wasn't just the corporal punishment that was building up anger in Verdugo and other Latino students at Lincoln High School. It was also the disregard of their culture and language, being tracked into vocational classes, being treated like their futures were dead-ends.
Verdugo decided to do something about it. On March 6, 1968, he was among the students who led a walkout in protest of unequal education.
"I remember being in the hallways yelling, 'Walk out!' and being confronted by the vice principal telling me to go back to my class," Verdugo told Latino USA.
Verdugo, who became one of the founders of the Chicano student movement that day and then spent much of his life mentoring youth, died Friday following a heart attack and a years-long struggle with diabetes. He was 69.
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