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Hispanic Community Mourns the Loss of Mexican American Leader Raymond Telles

Created: 15 March, 2013
Updated: 26 July, 2022
2 min read

Ambassador Raymond L. Telles, Jr., the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city, the first Hispanic U.S. Ambassador, a decorated U.S. Air Force Colonel, and presidential advisor passed away on March 8, 2013 at his daughter’s home in Sherman Oaks, California.

Telles was born September 5, 1915, and was educated at Texas Western College, which is now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. He began his civil service career with the United States Department of Justice, and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941.

As a result of his distinguished service as the Chief of the Lend-Lease Program for South and Central America for the US Air Force he received the Order of the Southern Cross from Brazil, Columbian wings, the Mexican Legion of Merit, and the Peruvian Flying Cross. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of Colonel.

After serving as military aide to President Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, he returned to his home of El Paso and began his political career. In 1948, he was elected County Clerk. He was later recalled for the Korean Conflict where he commanded the U.S. Air Force 67th Tactical and Reconnaissance Group, for which he earned the Bronze Star.

In November 1957, after a hard-fought campaign, he was elected Mayor of El Paso. His collaborative leadership won him an uncontested second term. In 1961, Telles was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, making history as the first person of Hispanic heritage to serve as a U.S. Ambassador. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Telles Chairman of the U.S.-Mexican Border Commission. Later, President Richard Nixon appointed him, and President Gerald Ford re-appointed him, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Ambassador Telles was an advisor and friend to both Democratic and Republican presidents, including President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Nixon and President Ford.

“Our father, who devoted his entire life to public service, will always be remembered for paving the way for generations of Hispanics and their social and political progress,” reflected Cynthia Telles. “He was an extraordinarily dedicated father, who instilled timeless values and set an example of selflessness,” stated Patricia Telles-Irvin.

Raymond L. Telles, Jr. was married for 68 years to the love of his life, Delfina Navarro. He is survived by his two daughters Dr. Cynthia Telles of Sherman Oaks, California and Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin of Evanston, Illinois, and grandchildren Raymond David Jimenez and Daniel Irvin-Telles.