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José Antonio Aguirre y Lekube
Lehendakari Aguirre01
Official Portrait of José Antonio Aguirre y Lekube
1st Lehendakari of Euskadi
In office
October 7, 1936 – March 22, 1960
Succeeded by José María de Leizaola Sánchez
Personal details
BornMarch 6, 1904
Bilbao
Political partyEAJ
Spouse(s)Maria Zabala
ChildrenAintzane and Joseba
ResidenceAjuria Enea
ProfessionLawyer
ReligionRoman Catholic

José Antonio Aguirre y Lekube (6 March 1904 – 22 March 1960) was the first Lehendakari of the Euskadiko Errepublika. He became president during the Spanish Civil War and led the struggle of the Basque people to independence. He promoted the drafting of the 1949 Euskadi Konstituzioa and directed efforts towards international recognition that came in 1951.

Throughout his life he was known for his moderate and inclusive spirit and remained in office until his death in 1960. It is considered the father of the Basque nation.

Life

Jose Antonio Agirre was born in Bilbao the eldest of 10 brother and sisters. He was baptised in the parish of Santos Juanes in Bilbao. Although his birth was registered the previous day, Agirre himself and his family have always celebrated his birthday on the 6th of March.

He studied in the first ikastola of the Basque Country, a school where he was taught completely in Basque language.

Teodoro Agirre, the father of José Antonio Agirre dies in 1920 and the family moves to Algorta, a town near Bilbao. In the same year he begins to study Law. The family firm "Chocolates Aguirre" merges with others to form "Chocolates Bilbainos". During his law studies, he began working in the family business. He later took the responsibility of the business. He made big reforms there introducing reforms that improved workers' conditions in the factory (free health care, paid holidays, donating a part of the business earning to the poor people, pushing for social housing, etc.) He created a new way of managing the business, consistent with the ideas he believed in. Until 1936, “Chocolates Bilbaínos” was the second biggest business in its sector in Spain.

Aguirre was a football player and he made his debut for Athletic Club de Bilbao in 1923.

José Antonio Agirre graduates in Law aged only 21 years old. He begins to work as a clerk in the office of traditionalist lawyer Esteban Bilbao. In 1929 José Antonio Agirre opens a law firm with his colleague Antonio Berreteaga at nº 2, Calle Iturribide in Bilbao. In 1930 he is elected board member for Juventud Vasca and joins the board of the company publishing the newspaper “Euzkadi”, Euzko Pizkundia.

On april 14, 1931 the nationalist town councils of Getxo –on the initiative of its mayor, José Antonio Agirre- Mundaka, Bermeo and Elorrio, following the Catalan example, proclaim "the Basque Republic associated in federation with the Spanish Republic". An Assembly of Bizkaia municipalities meets in Gernika on april 17 demanding, “the proclamation and solemn recognition of the Basque Republic, whose constitution and laws shall be developed without further delay, with Bizkaya admitted into it by virtue of the inalienable right of the people to be governed by their own free determination”. José Antonio Agirre is elected member of parliament for Bizkaia and Navarre in the candidature defending the Estella Statute.

Lehendakari

Aguirre Oath01

Original Aguirre Oath

He is elected first Lehendakari in Gernika october 7, 1936 after having sworn allegiance to its political and religious principles before the authorities of the EAJ in the Basilica of Begoña.

Extract from the oath of Lehendakari Aguirre in taking office:

"Jaungoikuaren aurrean apalik
Euzko-lur ganian zutunik
Asabearen gomutaz
Gernika’ko zuaiazpian
Nere aginduba ondo betetzia
Zin dagit."
"Humbled before God
Standing on Basque land
With the memory of ancestors
Under the Tree of Gernika
I swear
Faithfully fulfill my mandate. "

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