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Dennis Chávez Papers

Identifier: MSS 394 BC

Scope and Content

The Dennis Chávez Papers are comprised of material from Chávez' career as a politician. This includes his tenure in the New Mexico State Legislature, as well as in the United States Congress, where he was involved in such areas as Indian affairs, labor, the Post Office, the Defense Department, Latin American issues, and New Deal programs. The collection contains personal and congressional papers and correspondence (including materials relating to Senator Joseph McCarthy), photographs, news clippings, publications, maps, reports, legislation, press releases, scrapbooks, and memorabilia. Also included are project files on New Mexico counties and subject files on agriculture, mining and water resources, among other topics. The Dennis Chávez Papers are divided into eight overlapping series.
  2. Series I: Correspondence (1923-1962)
  3. Series II: Political (1921-1962)
  4. Series III: Legislation (1936-1962)
  6. Series IV: Departments (1928-1962)
  7. Series V: Press Releases (1936-1962)
  8. Series VI: News Clips/ Scrapbooks (1932-1962)
  9. Series VII: Projects (1930-1962)
  10. Series VIII: Case Files (1931-1962) *restricted access*
There is an oversized folder containing three items. Publications are scattered within the different series. Most materials in the collection are in English, however, some materials are in Spanish. The majority of photographs have been transferred to the Center for Southwest Research Photoarchives.

For the second half of the contents list see Finding Aid of the Dennis Chávez Papers, Part 2


  • 1921-1963
  • Majority of material found in 1930-1962


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Case-work files are restricted.

Boxes 64, 65, (McCarthy) must be accessed via microfilm. Boxes 78-83 (FEPC, Indian Affairs) must be accessed via microfilm or digital files are available on cd, located in box .

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Dennis Chávez (christened "Dionicio") was born in Los Chávez, Valencia County, New Mexico on April 8, 1888. His parents, David and Paz (Sanchez) Chávez were members of families that had lived in Los Chávez for generations. In 1895, David Chávez moved his family to the Barelas section of Albuquerque where Dennis attended school until financial hardships necessitated that he go to work. His first job was delivering groceries at the Highland Grocery store. Later on, he studied engineering and surveying at night and worked as an engineer for the City of Albuquerque for several years.

In 1911, Chávez married Imelda Espinosa, a member of a prominent New Mexico family. In 1914, they moved to Belen. He worked briefly as editor of a Belen weekly newspaper, as a court interpreter, and as a private contractor until 1916, when he obtained temporary employment as a Spanish interpreter for Senator A. A. Jones' reelection campaign. In 1918, he was offered a position as assistant executive clerk of the Senate in Washington, D.C. by Senator Jones. He accepted this position, passed a special admission exam at Georgetown University Law School and studied law at night. He graduated from Georgetown in 1920 and returned to Albuquerque to establish a law practice.

In 1922, Chávez ran successfully for the New Mexico state legislature. In 1930, he was elected as the Democratic candidate to the U. S. House of Representatives; in 1932, he became chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Chávez was defeated by Bronson Cutting for a Senate seat in 1934, but when Cutting was killed in 1935, Governor Clyde Tingley appointed Chávez to fill the vacant seat. He was elected to serve out the remainder of the unexpired term in 1936, and was re-elected in 1940, 1946, 1952, and 1958.

Chávez was instrumental in improving higher educational facilities in New Mexico. He actively supported legislation to benefit farmers and protect New Mexico's share of water from the Colorado River. Chávez was pro-labor, co-sponsoring the Fair Employment Practices Commission Bill; he was involved with legislation pertaining to Indian affairs; he was an advocate of the Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America. Dennis Chávez was chairman of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, the Committee on Public Works, and the Senate Subcommittee for Defense Appropriations. Chávez was the first native-born Hispanic elected to the U. S. Senate. At the time of his death, he was fourth ranking in Senate seniority. He died in Washington D. C. on November 18, 1962 and is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque.


386 boxes (383 cu. ft.) + 1 oversize folder

Other Contents List

For the second portion of the contents list see Finding Aid of the Dennis Chavez Papers (Part 2)

Microfilm Edition

Correspondence pertaining to Joseph McCarthy, FEPC, Indian Affairs (boxes 64, 65, 78-83) is available on microfilm; CSWR Mfilm MSS 394.

Microfiolm reels 23-30 available on CD, located in Box 1, Folder A.

See Microfilm Guide after the Container List.

Related Material

Dennis Chávez Vertical File. Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico. Correspondence in Winfield K. Denton papers, 1913-1971. Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. Correspondence in Clinton Presba Anderson papers, 1938-1972. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, DC. (microfilm copy available at the Center for Southwest Research). Correspondence in Frederick Hale papers, 1917-1940. Syracuse University. George Arents Research Library, Syracuse, NY. John Collier papers, 1910-1987 (microfilm copy available at the Center for Southwest Research) Chester Bowles papers, 1924-1973. Yale University Libraries, Manuscripts and Archives, New Haven, CT. Glenn Leonidas Emmons Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico William Zimmerman, Jr. Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Richard Lowitt Papers on Bronson M. Cutting Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Clyde Tingley and Carrie Tingley Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

The majority of the photographs have been transferred to Dennis Chavez Pictorial Collection.

Guide to Microfilm Reels

Subject Reel Box Beginning Folder
McCarthy 1 64 1
McCarthy 2 64 27
McCarthy 3 64 37
McCarthy 4 64 45
McCarthy 5 65 3
McCarthy 6 65 11
McCarthy 7 65 16
Indian Affairs 8 80 1
Indian Affairs 9 80 10
Indian Affairs 10 80 19
Indian Affairs 11 80 31
Indian Affairs 12 81 1
Indian Affairs 13 81 8
Indian Affairs 14 81 15
Indian Affairs 15 81 20
Indian Affairs 16 82 2
Indian Affairs 17 82 10
Indian Affairs 18 82 18
Indian Affairs 19 82 29
Indian Affairs 20 83 2
Indian Affairs 21 83 17
Indian Affairs 22 83 29
Indian Affairs/FEPC 23 83 47
FEPC 24 78 7
FEPC 25 78 20
FEPC 26 78 34
FEPC 27 79 2
FEPC 28 79 7
FEPC 29 79 12
FEPC 30 79 29

Processing Information

Materials added to collection in May 2010. A note to this effect has been inserted in the contents list for specific folders that have had materials added to them.
Finding Aid of the Dennis Chávez Papers (Part 1), 1921-1963 (bulk 1930-1962)
Processed by Staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 394 BC::Dennis Chavez Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss394bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131