Judge Albert Armendariz Federal Courthouse "a fitting tribute to a hometown hero"
posted by NPT Staff
Posted on September 10, 2009
Editor's Note: From the NPT Inbox, sent by the office of U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES APPROVES REYES’ BILL TO NAME NEW DOWNTOWN FEDERAL COURTHOUSE IN HONOR OF LATE EL PASO JUDGE AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER ALBERT ARMENDARIZ, SR.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill authored by Congressman Silvestre Reyes (H.R. 2053) to name the new downtown federal courthouse in honor of late El Paso Judge Albert Armendariz passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today by voice vote. The bill now proceeds to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Congressman Reyes released the following statement after the vote:
“Judge Armendariz was a great civil rights leader, and I am pleased that the House of Representatives passed the legislation I authored to name El Paso’s new federal courthouse in his honor.
“This is a fitting tribute to a hometown hero who came from humble beginnings in El Paso and dedicated his life to equality and civil rights. Judge Armendariz’s legacy and contributions to the advancement of civil rights for Hispanics will forever be remembered and celebrated at El Paso’s new federal courthouse. I hope future generations of El Pasoans will not only appreciate his important contributions to our country but also be inspired by his life story and achievements.
“I wish to thank my colleagues who supported this legislation, particularly Chairman Oberstar and all the Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly, so that President Obama can sign the bill into law.”
Judge Armendariz was a prominent civil rights leader who practiced law for 57 years in El Paso. The legislation to name the new El Paso federal courthouse after Armendariz was introduced by Congressman Reyes in April in the House of Representatives. The bill passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on June 4.
“This bill is a testament to the work Judge Armendariz did not only for the Hispanic community and the state of Texas, but also for the country as a whole,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (MN-08). “He is a perfect example of what one can accomplish through hard work and dedication to one's community. The House, and my colleague Mr. Reyes, have acted appropriately in according him this honor.”
Judge Albert Armendariz is best known for his civil rights advocacy that helped change the landscape for Latinos nationwide. In 1954, Armendariz helped argue Hernandez v. the State of Texas in the United States Supreme Court, a landmark case that established Latinos as a distinct class entitled to protection under the 14th Amendment. In the 1970’s Armendariz represented the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund (MALDEF) in another historic case, Alvarado v. El Paso Independent School District, which fought against discriminatory practices in El Paso public schools.
“Judge Albert Armendariz was a towering figure in El Paso and the broader Latino community,” said Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (TX-23). “Naming the new El Paso federal courthouse after Judge Armendariz is a great tribute to his cultural and legal legacies, including the landmark case which established Latinos as a class entitled to protection. I want to thank Congressman Silvestre Reyes for his leadership in bringing the community together and getting H.R. 2053 passed.”
Albert Armendariz was born on August 11, 1919 in El Paso, and was one of seven children. He graduated from El Paso High School in 1934 and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lou Regalado. He worked as a shoe salesman and auto mechanic before serving in World War II. Following the war, he used his benefits under the GI Bill to attend college and graduated from the Texas College of Mines (now the University of Texas at El Paso). He received his law degree from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1950 and returned to El Paso to practice law.
Armendariz was a tireless and passionate advocate for civil rights. He served as the National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and was a founding member and past National President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and was also a founding member of the Mexican American Bar Association. In the late 1950’s and ‘60’s, Armendariz served on the El Paso Civil Service Commission and helped bring more Hispanics into the El Paso Police and Fire Departments.
“Members of the House saw it fitting for the courthouse to bear Judge Armendariz’s name, and voted in favor of Congressman Reyes’ measure,” Congressman Solomon Ortiz (TX-27) said. Judge Armendariz served his nation as a veteran of World War II, and enrolled at the University of Southern California, School of Law, where he earned his law degree as the only Mexican American graduate at the time. Judge Armendariz served this nation in many capacities for many years, and it is fitting that when El Pasoans walk through the doors of the federal courthouse, they walk into the Judge Albert Armendariz, Sr. Federal Courthouse,” Ortiz added.
From 1976 to 1985, Armendariz served as an administrative judge for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He was then appointed to the 8th Court of Appeals of Texas.
Judge Armendariz passed away on October 4, 2007. He is survived by his wife, Maria Jauregui. He was preceded in death by his first wife of 54 years, Mary Lou, who died in 1993.
Armendariz received numerous awards for his achievements and commitment to social justice. He was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards by LULAC, MALDEF and the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project. In 2006, the El Paso Bar Association honored him with the inaugural Albert Armendariz Award.
“As a trailblazer, he understood what civil rights meant,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “So it is fitting that we name this courthouse in honor of Armendariz. He has enriched the lives of many by dramatically improving the quality of life for Hispanics nationwide and continuing to inspire future generations.”
Supporters of naming the United States Courthouse in El Paso in honor of Judge Albert Armendariz, Sr. include the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO); LULAC; Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas; El Paso Bar Association; Texas State Senator Eliot Shapliegh, El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros; El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza; and El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez.
“What an honor it is to have El Paso’s courthouse bear the name of Judge Armendariz; it is a fitting tribute to a man who believed in justice for all and for people of all backgrounds,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28). “With this, his contributions will carry on and his name will not be forgotten.”
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