1932 – 2008
Trailblazing scholar, mental health services provider and community activist
Los Angeles native Armando Morales spent his career advocating for the Latino community and other underserved populations, including efforts to increase mental health services and end abusive policing.
Born in 1932 in Los Angeles, Morales attending Roosevelt High School and spent three years in the U.S. Air Force. In 1963, he earned his MSW from USC; in 1972, he completed the DSW program at USC and became the first Latino in the nation to earn a doctorate in social work.
As a psychiatric social worker, Morales foresaw developing problems in the Latino community and sought to address them. He noted that, while the population of Latinos increased, the numbers using mental health services remained low. Concerned that fear of deportation make people fearful of using state hospital services, Morales was an early proponent of increased mental health care services in the Latino community.
Morales worked to create facilities that would help draw in those in need of services. From 1966 to 1969 he was director of Mental Health Consultation Services, East Los Angeles Branch of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. And in 1972, working as a consultant for the Veterans Administration, he set up a satellite service in East Los Angeles.
In 1977, Morales founded the first psychiatric clinic for Spanish-speaking patients at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. From 1979 to 2000, Morales served as director of the Clinical Social Work Department and director of the Clinical Internship Training Program at the institute, where he rose through the ranks to achieve the highest level of professorship attainable at UCLA.
Also in 1977, he began offering mental health consultation to parole officers and psychotherapy to parolees; he ultimately provided more than 12,000 treatment sessions to gang members and their families through his affiliation with the California Youth Authority. His knowledge led Morales to testify as an expert witness in dozens of criminal cases, including the racially charged Reginald Denny beating trial. He also delivered lectures, workshops, and keynote speeches throughout the United States and internationally, in addition to authoring articles, chapters, and papers on mental health, policy and community relations, urban riots, social work, and homicide intervention and prevention, among other subjects.
His textbook, Social Work: A Profession of Many Faces, is now in its 12th edition and is among the longest surviving major textbooks in social work since is inaugural edition was published in 1977. As the title suggests, Morales was committed to providing new social workers with an appreciation of the unique experiences of the range of vulnerable populations social workers are committed to serve. Morales also authored what is now considered a seminal publication focused on the Chicano political movement, Ando Sangrando (I Am Bleeding): A Study of Mexican American Police Conflict.
Later in his career, Morales was actively involved with Homeboy Industries, an organization founded in his childhood neighborhood of Boyle Heights that provides opportunities for formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women.