Raymond Telles, the first Hispanic Mayor of El Paso, who served from 1957 to 1961, died on Friday at the age of 97. Telles, a Democrat, would go on to become the Ambassador to Costa Rica under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1967. In 1967, he became the Chairman of the United States-Mexican Border Commission, and in 1971 he became a commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is distinct from the Chairman of EEOC, that the LA Times, in their continuing disgrace of journalism, seems to think), serving until 1976.
Telles was the first Hispanic elected Mayor of a major US City (population of El Paso at that time was about 150,000). His election came a full 24 years before that of Henry Cisneros, and 8 years before Alfonso Cervantes of St. Louis, who is erroneously sometimes called the first Hispanic person to the elected Mayor of a major US City. If and when Texas ever turns blue, it will be because of the hispanic community, and one of the first milestones will be Mayor Telles. An inspiration to all.
The Houston Chronicle has reported that Gaynelle Griffin Jones, President Clinton’s first US Attorney for the Houston area (S.TX district) has died. She evidently also served on the 1st Court of Appeals (back when good Democrats were still on the bench, I presume). A native of Dallas, she was 64.
She was praised by many of her colleagues, as well as her family. Her daughter, Athena, who is a correspondent for CNN, stated that “She certainly pushed people to achieve greatness.”
Hilmar G. Moore, perhaps the longest serving public official in American history, died today at the age of 92. Moore had been the Mayor of Richmond, TX for 63 years, roughly my father’s entire lifespan (THAT is a long time!). Moore came from a Fort Bend area political family. His grandfather, John Moore Sr, was a State Representative, Congressman, and the Texas Secretary of State, while his father, John Moore Jr, was a Fort Bend Judge, and also a Mayor of Richmond.
Hilmar Moore took office in Richmond in 1949, and was re-elected over thirty times. In that time, the city has gone from 2,000 residents and being considered “in the country”, to a 12,000 person suburb of the burgeoning Houston metropolis. Even though city elections are non-partisan, it is pretty obvious that Moore was a Democrat (a Republican in rural Texas in 1949?). Also, a cursory google search shows myriad campaign donations to Lampsons and Clintons over the years.
A Chronicle article lists the praise the late Mayor received from all over the state, and mentions Ford Bend flags will be flown at half-staff. The Mayor Pro Tem of Richmond, Bill Dostal, will serve as acting Mayor until further notice. Mayor Moore was a staple of accountable government through the years, may he rest in peace.
Just for laughs, I have compiled a list of things that have changed throughout the country since Richmond had another mayor.
Mayor of Houston–Oscar Holcombe
World Series–New York Yankees defeat Brooklyn Dodgers
NBA Champions–Minneapolis Lakers
Football Champions (there was no Superbowl)–Philadelphia Eagles defeat Los Angeles Rams
Cost of a stamp–3 cents
Cost of a gallon of gasoline–27 cents
$100.00 equivalent–10 dollars, 29 cents
Jack Brooks, the former Beaumont-area congressman, passed away yesterday at the age of 89. The New York Times presented quite an obituary for the late politician. First being elected to the Texas House in 1948, he served for two terms before being elected to the US House of Representatives in 1952. He served for forty-two years, twenty-one terms in all, before being defeated for re-election in the 1994 sweep by Steve Stockman, the former one-term Congressman who was just sent back this year.
Brooks was one of the most liberal members of a southern delegation, a big protege of other Texas liberals like Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, and Ralph Yarborough. A big supporter of the Civil Rights Act and Great Society/New Frontier legislation, he was also present in the motorcade when President Kennedy was assassinated.
Brooks was given universal praise today after word of his death came out, from both sides of the political aisle. He was one of the good ones and he will be missed.
A few summers ago, I was doing some work at my father’s law practice, which is located in an office just between the Museum District and Midtown. I was told to mail a few letters, so I drove to the Southmore Post Office on Almeda. Outside, I saw a fascinating plaque.
It commemorated an event which occurred in the 60s, when the Post Office location was the Weingarden Grocery Store, was the site of the first sit-in in the Houston area. The leader of this protest was a local TSU law student named Otis King.
King would later be the dean of TSU’s Thurgood Marshall Law School and the first African-American City Attorney, serving from 1976 to 1978 under Mayor Fred Hofheinz. Hofheinz, upon being reached for comment by the Chronicle in their story about King, called him “outstanding” and “well-respected by everyone.” King died the day before Thanksgiving at 77.
King was one of those pioneers in Civil Rights so avante-garde, that some say he was the inspiration for Barbara Jordan (whom he was a debate partner with during college). He was a fantastic citizen of Houston and will be missed.
State Senator Mario Gallegos, Jr. died today in Houston at the age of 62. Gallegos, in office since 1995, had been the quintessence of the Hispanic community in Houston. Prior to serving in the State Senator, Gallegos was a state representative for two terms, from 1991 to 1995.
Gallegos had been hospitalized a few days previous. Houston has most definitely lost one of our most courageous legislators. Long ago, when I made my start into politics, I started a campaign to rename HISD schools named after Confederates such as Davis and Lee. At the school board meeting, Gallegos addressed the board immediately before I did. In the aftermath, as the school board seemed set in its institutionally racist ways, it seemed Senator Gallegos was my only friend in a high place. I will always be thankful for that. RIP, Senator.
The Chronicle has more.
Donald Lee, a relatively obscure former State Representative from the valley who had gone missing from a nursing home a few days ago, was found dead in a nearby field Sunday. Lee, who had served in the Texas House from 1981 to 1987 representing parts of Brownsville and McAllen, had been a champion of the interests of people in the valley.
Evidently, Lee had only moved to the facility on August 20, and somehow disappeared without explanation three days later. The police said there were no signs of foul play, but irrespective this is a tragic, sad event. Texas has lost another good man, we don’t have many left.
The Statesman has more.
Ernest McGowen, Sr., the second African-American elected to the Houston City Council and the father of the city’s Affirmative Action program, died at the age of 87 on Sunday.
McGowen was the first Councilmember for the northern District B, being first elected in 1980 after a successful lawsuit brought single member districts to Houston (something our Austinite friends are still fighting for) and stayed until term limits forced him out in 1994. He was a major advocate during the Whitmire Administration for increased affirmative action programs. Among his accomplishments were being the sponsor of the MWBE program (minority and woman-owned business enterprise), writing the ordinance prohibiting support of apartheid South Africa, supporting striking Sanitation Workers, and helping to establish MLK day as a city holiday.
Former City Councilmember Anthony Hall, State Senator Rodney Ellis, and U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who all served with McGowen on the Council, commended McGowen’s record and lauded his memory.
RIP Councilmember. I was always remember him as a pioneer, a hero, and a fighter always for what is right.
The Houston Chronicle has the full story.