Former Arizona Governor Raul Castro Dies

Raul Castro and Jimmy Carter
Raul Castro and Jimmy Carter

Raul Castro, the first and only Hispanic to serve as Arizona's governor, has died at age 98.

In a Facebook message last year in support of David Garcia as state Superintendent of Public Instruction that it was "hard to believe" that since being elected 40 years ago, "no other Latino has been elected to statewide office."

The Democrat was elected to office in 1974 and served two years before being tapped by President Jimmy Carter to become ambassador to Argentina.

See also: -James E. Garcia Brings The Life of Raul H. Castro, Arizona's Only Hispanic Governor, to The Stage

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was among the public officials issuing statements about Castro's death this morning.

"Governor Castro lived a uniquely American life: immigrating to our country at a young age, working his way through college, and breaking the chains of poverty to become a successful attorney, judge, governor and U.S. Ambassador," Stanton said. "He did more than make history as Arizona's first Hispanic governor - he shaped our future for the better, and was an enduring inspiration to so many people in our state."

And here's a statement from Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo:

"Raul Castro is the classic American story. Born in extreme poverty, coming to Arizona at an early age, he knew only that through hard work and education could he make a difference in his life. He plucked chickens and waited tables to earn his way through college. He earned a degree but he faced discrimination. And yet, through his determination and effort, he became a lawyer, later Pima County attorney and the first Latino governor in Arizona history.

"He was a boxer, a lawyer, a prosecutor, a diplomat to three Latin American countries, a governor and then returned to Arizona to practice law well into his 80s. He remained a role model and an inspiration to me and those who knew him and his story. Raul Castro was an American success story and an Arizona hero. I will miss him deeply."

A few years ago, Phoenix-based playwright James E. Garcia wrote a play about Castro, "American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Raúl H. Castro," that's still being performed around the state. Castro's life story is a classic American tale of an immigrant who comes to the United States and rises to the top on sheer intelligence and hard work.

Born in Cananea, Mexico, in 1916, Castro moved to Arizona with his family in 1926 and later became a U.S. citizen. Castro worked various jobs, hopped trains and lived the life of a hobo for a while before saving up enough money to attend the University of Arizona College of Law. He was elected to Pima County Attorney, became a Pima County Superior Court judge and was selected to be ambassador to El Salvador, then Bolivia.

After practicing international law for a while before returning to Tucson, Castro won the race for governor in 1974.

According to a description of his 2009 autobiography, "Adversity Is My Angel: The Life and Career of Raul H. Castro, his story "suggests much about the human spirit, the ability to overcome institutional and personal prejudice, and the hope inherent in the American dream."

Raul Castro last year with David Garcia, the Democratic state Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate who lost to Diane Douglas.
Raul Castro last year with David Garcia, the Democratic state Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate who lost to Diane Douglas.

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Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Ray Stern on Twitter at @RayStern.

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