Bernard Valdez

Bernard Valdez (1912-1997), one of Denver’s most revered Hispanic leaders, exemplifies the spirit of service that was nurtured in the CCC. To his fellow alumni and many others, he was known simply as “Bernie.” He was a founder of Denver’s Chapter 7 Alumni group, and served as its first president. The son of migrant farmers in New Mexico, he credits the CCC with beginning his education. He served in 1938 with Company 1819 at Camp F-64-C in Woodland Park. Of his CCC experience, Bernie reported in 1989:

My mother was delighted when I joined the CCC because for the first time she would have a steady income of $25 a month. That money supported my mother and four brothers and sisters.

The CCC gave me an opportunity to live with other boys. One of the differences between the CCC and some of the other programs was that all the kids in the CCC were not culturally deprived. Most of the kids who go to the new programs have been culturally deprived and they have no way of expanding their horizons.

In the CCC, we had lots of kids who had graduated from high school, we had several who were in the process of getting a college education, and we had adult leaders who had had lots of experience. We had an educational adviser who in my opinion had a tremendous amount of imagination because he didn’t have any resources—no library; no money or assistants. So he created relationships between the boys, and teachers among the boys. There was somebody who could teach math and somebody who could teach English and somebody else who could teach something else… There was tremendous enrichment from each other that I think really changed the course of my life.

Dora and Bernie Valdez

After graduating from Colorado A & M (now Colorado State University), Valdez fought against discriminatory labor and business practices while working for the U.S. Department of Labor’s World War II Bracero Program. Later, he managed Denver’s welfare programs and served as a member of the Denver School Board. In 1964, during President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Valdez and Denver Mayor Tom Currigan suggested reopening the Mt. Morrison CCC Camp as a Job Corps facility, but residents objected. The Job Corps was a $412.5 million program expected to enroll 100,000 youths in 1964-65. Job Corps continues to assist youth today.

Bernie Valdez gave a lifetime of commitment to the Hispanic community in Colorado and nationwide through his efforts in developing community affairs, and increasing housing, recreational, and education opportunities. In 2001, he was awarded the first Bernie Valdez Community Recognition Award, a continuing award established in his honor. That same year, historic restoration of the West Side Court Building at Speer Blvd. and Colfax Ave. in Denver was completed, and the building was re-dedicated as the Bernard Valdez Hispanic Heritage Center.

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