This week, the Arizona Law community mourns the passing of alumnus Governor Raul Castro, a celebrated alumnus and legendary trailblazer. His life - and his reach -- are so remarkable that we dedicate this week's newsletter to Governor Castro and the lives he touched.


Until the Footnotes,



Raul Hector Castro '49

Photo: Arizona Republic

Given Governor Castro's long and productive life on the national stage, there were many moving tributes, including this particularly engrossing story of his life in The New York Times:


Arizona's 1st Hispanic Governor, 

also a US Ambassador, Dies.


"Raul Hector Castro, Arizona's only Hispanic governor and an American ambassador to three countries, died Friday. He was 98.


Family spokesman James Garcia said Castro died in his sleep in San Diego, where he was in hospice care.


Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Castro "lived a full life of exemplary service to Arizona and its people."


"He was an honorable public servant, a history-maker, a beloved family man and a strong friend and fighter for Arizona," Ducey said in a statement.


Castro was a self-made man, the embodiment of the American dream. He overcame poverty and discrimination to graduate from college and launch a successful career in politics and diplomacy.


"America is the land of opportunity," Castro told The Associated Press in 2010. "Here, one can accomplish whatever they want to be. But you've got to work for it."


Growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border near Douglas, Arizona, Castro saw discrimination around him. He said he wondered why the Hispanics were laborers and none delivered the mail or worked in offices.


It didn't seem right that the Hispanic children had to walk miles to school every day while the white kids would wave from a passing school bus, he said. 


He set out to beat the odds. When he couldn't get a job as a teacher - schools didn't hire

educators of Mexican descent back then - he became a drifter for a while, working as a farm hand and boxing here and there.


He landed a job with the U.S. Consulate in the border city of Agua Prieta, Mexico. After five years, a senior official told him he was doing a great job but had no future in the foreign service - he had a Hispanic name and no Ivy League education. Castro quit and moved to Tucson.


A law school dean at the University of Arizona told Castro he wouldn't be accepted because Castro couldn't afford to quit a job teaching Spanish. Besides, the dean said, Hispanic students didn't do well in law school.


Undeterred, Castro went to the university president, who convinced the dean to give Castro an opportunity to prove himself. He excelled and went on to be elected the first Hispanic county attorney and later the first Hispanic judge in Pima County Superior Court.


"One of the finest men I ever knew," former Gov. Rose Mofford, a fellow Democrat, said of Castro during a 2010 interview with the AP.


Born June 12, 1916, in Cananea, Mexico, some 50 miles south of Arizona, Castro grew up in Arizona and graduated from Douglas High School. He was the second-youngest in a family with 12 children - 11 boys and one girl. His father was a union leader forced out of Mexico for organizing a strike at the mine in Cananea.


His father died when Castro was 12, and his mother became a midwife to feed the family. She delivered babies for the Mexican families around Douglas in exchange for flour, corn, beans and other staples.


Education was the best way out, Castro determined.


He went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to three Latin American countries under three U.S. presidents. Lyndon Johnson sent him to El Salvador, where Castro became known as "Yankee Castro" to differentiate him from the other Raul Castro - the brother of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.


Johnson later sent him to Bolivia, and he stayed for a short time under Richard Nixon before returning to Arizona and making the first of two bids for governor.


His statewide races were two of the closest gubernatorial elections in state history. He lost to Republican Jack Williams in 1970 by 1.5 percentage points.


Photo: Arizona Republic

He fared better four years later as the Republican Party was embroiled in the Watergate corruption scandal. Castro defeated Republican Russ Williams by less than 1 percentage point three months after Nixon resigned in controversy.


As an ambassador and judge, Castro was used to having unquestioned authority; he struggled to adjust to the checks and balances imposed on a governor, said Alfredo Gutierrez, a Democrat and legislative leader while Castro was governor.


"It was a very difficult beginning for him," Gutierrez said. "It was quite an adjustment."


Castro was governor for 2½ years before resigning when President Jimmy Carter appointed him ambassador to Argentina.


He told the AP he was proud of his work motivating Hispanics to vote, many of them for the first time despite deep nerves.


"The thing that bothered me the most when I resigned as governor, the Hispanic community felt that I had betrayed them, because they worked so hard to get me elected," he reminisced decades later. "I had to convince them and persuade them that being an American ambassador was just as important as being a governor. I had more authority."


Castro spent his waning years living in Nogales and talking to students around the state, motivating them to work hard and chase lofty dreams. This article can also be viewed on The New York Times online by clicking here.


To learn more about Raul Castro's life click here.


To share your own memory about Governor Castro, go to the online tribute page at:


Centennial Snapshot - Raul Castro

There is a wealth of information available to memorialize the life of Raul H. Castro and his wide-ranging impact on the State of Arizona and the nation. In this snapshot, we recall his Castro's time as a student and his early practice among other alums in Tucson.


Castro came to the University of Arizona College of Law in his late 20s with a tenacious spirit and previous exposure to legal practice on behalf of the U.S. State Department in Mexico.


Nonetheless, in a 1991 interview, he said, "Law school I think is the most difficult task I've undertaken, at least for the first year." He appears second from the left in the front row of this Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity photograph from the 1949 yearbook.


1949 Desert yearbook, p.166, Cracchiolo Law Library digital collection


After graduation and private practice in Tucson, Castro began work as a deputy in the Pima County Attorney's Office alongside several other College of Law alumni. Castro appears in this 1954 photo in the back row, second from the right. Other graduates pictured are deputy Charles Ares ('52) (second from left, back row), County Attorney Morris Udall ('49) (third from left, back row), and deputy Mary Anne Reimann (Richey) ('51) (far right, front row).



Source: Digital copy of a photograph In the Morris K. Udall archive at Special Collections, University of Arizona Library, MS325. Also included in Atwood, Barbara: A Courtroom of Her Own: the Life and Work of Judge Mary Anne Richey, 1998.



Do you have photos or memories of your time at Arizona Law? We would love to hear from you. Please contact Emily McGovern, Centennial Coordinator, to share your stories.


Whenever anyone walks into the main building at the College of Law, they are greeted with large images and biographies of five alumni, four of whom, including Governor Castro, appear in the 1954 picture from Pima County Attorney's Office.  Governor Castro remained in touch with the College, speaking on occasion, and writing a charming handwritten note just a few months ago.  He will remain a model and a hero for our community for many years to come.








Marc L. Miller  

Dean & Ralph W. Bilby Professor of Law
Shaping the next century of legal education 
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