John Castillo, 1939-2014

John Castillo, a member of the Houston City Council from 1996 to 2000, has passed away, reports the Houston Chronicle. Castillo, in addition to his duties as an elected official, was one of the most prominent Hispanic political activists in the City. His brother-in-law, Leonel Castillo, served as City Controller in the 1970s and later as the Director of the INS, both positions that John Castillo was instrumental in obtaining for him.

For every election that his brother-in-law or Ben Reyes won early on, advancing the cause of his community, Castillo was every bit as important from behind the scenes. “Leonel was the heart and soul of the Latino political movement, and John was the brains,” Reyes said about his mentor. Similarly conciliatory  in his comments was Marc Campos, a local political consultant. “Back in the ’70s, we didn’t really have mentors. We were all learning back then. He was probably the first real numbers guy we had,” Campos said.

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Leonel Castillo, 1939-2013

Texpatriate has learned that Leonel Castillo, the larger-than-life political figure in Houston’s Hispanic community, has passed away at the age of 74. Castillo, who served as Houston’s City Controller from 1972 to 1977 and as the Director of the INS under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979, died after lingering health problems.

Castillo was a maverick amongst the Mexican-American political community in Houston, and arguably served as a mentor and inspiration for Ben Reyes and other prominent Hispanic politicians. He first entered the political fray a mere four years after moving to Houston, back when the City Charter mandated a five year residency requirement to run for the City Council. Still wanting to throw his hat into the ring, he challenged the City Controller, Roy Oakes, a fourteen-term incumbent.

Oakes, a fiscal conservative and ally of the Republican Mayor (Louie Welch), was defeated by Castillo in 1971 in a landmark victory for Hispanics in Houston. Re-elected twice more, Castillo was rumored as a future Statewide officeholder, so taking a post such as Comptroller or Railroad Commissioner seemed destined in his future. After working hard to deliver the Hispanic vote to Jimmy Carter (the 1976 election was the last time Texas voted Democratic in a presidential year), Castillo was appointed by the President as the Chairman of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

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