Ramirez, Merle, 1930-2016
- Existence: 1930-2016
Educator, activist, and musician, Merle “Perry” Ramirez was born in 1930 in the Mexican settlement of Cook’s Point in Davenport, Iowa, to Dionisio and Adelida Gutierrez Ramirez. One of fourteen children, Ramirez completed the tenth grade before leaving school to work and support his family. He worked in the welding department at J. I. Case Company in Bettendorf, Iowa, for thirty-nine years, from 1948 to 1987. Ramirez held several leadership positions in his local union, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 858, advocating for the rights of working people and becoming deeply committed to community service.
After he retired, Ramirez embarked on a second career to foster educational opportunities for Quad Cities Latino youth. In 1992, he began work as a Community Project Consultant for the American Institute of Commerce (now Kaplan University) in Davenport, Iowa. Through AIC he partnered with local school districts to encourage minority youth to pursue education beyond high school. His educational programs focused on racial bias in schools, teen pregnancy, and the importance of completing high school.
Ramirez was an active member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 10 in Davenport, Iowa. During the 1960s, he marched with Cesar Chavez to support the rights of grape pickers in Delano, California, and he broadened that support to advocate for the rights of migrant workers employed in Iowa agribusiness. Merle Ramirez was also a professional musician. He formed the Latin musical group Los Reales and performed with them in venues across the Midwest for over thirty years. He was married to Carmella Ramirez for sixty-seven years with whom he raised four sons.