Raul Castro, Arizona’s Only Latino Governor, Dies at 98

Raul H. Castro (Photo: Arizona Republic)
Raul H. Castro (Photo: Arizona Republic)

Raul Hector Castro, who became Arizona’s only Latino governor and a well-traveled U.S. diplomat after lifting himself out of a hardscrabble, impoverished childhood, has died at the age of 98.

Castro followed an improbable journey to the state’s highest office and a series of presidential appointments to diplomatic posts. Born in Mexico, he spent some of his childhood scouring the desert for food to feed his family. He spent some of his young-adult years as a hobo, boxing for money at carnivals or picking sugar beets in fields.

Castro was a Tucson lawyer when he decided to enter politics. He saw rampant discrimination against Latinos and figured the best way to change the system was to become part of it. Castro was elected Pima County attorney in 1954 and was subsequently elected a Superior Court judge. He spent time as a U.S. ambassador in Latin America before returning to Arizona and running for governor.

Castro served two years as governor before being asked again by another U.S. president to serve as a diplomat.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced Castro’s passing in a statement, saying Arizonans will not forget the 14th governor.

“He was an honorable public servant, a history-maker, a beloved family man and a strong friend and fighter for Arizona,” Ducey’s statement said. “Whether as a county attorney, a superior court judge, a United States ambassador or – as we will best remember him – our 14th governor, his life and legacy of service is forever ingrained in our history. The thoughts and prayers of all Arizonans are with Governor Castro’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Ducey ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff in Castro’s honor in a day where he was remembered as a success story. The Governor’s Office will soon announce details on plans to honor Castro’s life and legacy.

During his shortened gubernatorial stint, Castro visited China on a trade mission and established a state film commission that tried to attract television and movie productions. Castro also stepped into the investigation of the 1976 car bombing of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles.

Castro, at the request of the state attorney general, pulled the case from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and gave it to the state, after attorneys raised concerns about comments the county attorney made to the CBS program “60 Minutes” about potential suspects.

Although he was a trailblazer for Latinos in Arizona politics, Castro expressed regret that not many Latinos followed his path. Since his election in 1974, no Latino has been his or her party’s nominee for the governor’s chair.

“I’d have figured, after all these years, someone would have come in,” Castro said during a 2011 interview at his Nogales, Ariz., home.

Castro was born in Cananea, Mexico, about 30 miles south of the U.S. border. His father, Francisco, brought the family to the United States as political refugees. Mexican authorities had targeted Francisco for his union-organizing activities.

Raul Castro remembered the family entering the United States at Naco when he was 10.

A border agent welcomed the family to the United States and told them their future was up to them. “That’s what we wanted to hear,” Castro said. “On our own.”

In a statement issued by Donald Daley III, Castro’s grandson, he said his 98-year-old grandfather was proud to be the first Latino elected to serve as governor, “lived as full and meaningful a life as any man could imagine.”

“He made history though his public service while helping to improve the lives of the countless numbers of people with whom he came in contact—though my family simply knew him as our beloved patriarch and a man to be cherished and respected,” Daley wrote.

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SOURCE: Richard Ruelas
The Arizona Republic 

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