Community mourns passing of Carlos Truan
Kingsville native Sen. Carlos F. Truan is being remembered as a legendary legislator who championed causes ranging from equal educational opportunities to childcare issues during his 34 years as an elected Democratic official. Truan, the former Dean of the Texas Senate, passed away Tuesday in Corpus Christi at age 76.
His son, Rene, acting as spokesman for the family, said his father taught them many lessons.
“He was a man of principle who stood by his word, and he was committed to the things he believed in,” Rene Truan said Friday. “He always said ‘Our children are our future,’ and if you look at the legislation he passed, that reflects the value he placed on our youth.”
“We were lucky we had him in our lives as long as we did,” he said.
Rene said a viewing will begin at 6 p.m. Monday night, with a Rosary and eulogies to be held at 7 p.m., at the Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Corpus Christi. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, with a private burial service to be held at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
Tributes for the late senator poured in from his friends, colleagues and others whose lives he impacted.
Many individuals praised his legislative record. Truan, the longest serving state senator, supported laws that helped many Texans, especially the poor, supporters said. He was instrumental in advocating higher education and merging South Texas and Rio Grande Valley universities with both the Texas A&M and University of Texas systems. Truan was instrumental in securing millions of dollars for Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi, and for University of Texas affiliates in South Texas.
His childhood friends also commended Truan because he maintained his Kingsville roots throughout the years. He was born in Kingsville on June 9, 1935, graduated from H.M. King High School, and later from Texas A&I University with a business degree in 1959. The next year he began a career in the insurance business.
He married his wife, Elvira, in 1963 and the couple eventually had four children.
Truan served Kleberg and Nueces counties as an elected official. Truan was elected as state representative in 1968, and served four terms. He was elected to the Texas Senate in 1976. He was one of 30 house members who pursued ethic reforms in 1971, earning the group the nickname the “Dirty Thirty.”
He was elected President Pro Tem in 1985 and was honored as Governor for a Day the next year. In 1995, Truan became the first Hispanic Dean of the Texas Senate. He officially retired from public service on Jan. 14, 2003.
As a state representative, he sponsored the Texas Child Care Licensing Act of 1975 that exposed institutional childcare abuses. Truan also authored the Texas Public Housing Authority Act and the Texas Bilingual Education Act in 1969. Truan has also been referred to as the “Father of Bilingual Education.”
Truan also authored the Texas Adult Education Act in 1973 and the Interstate Placement of Children Act in 1975. In 1995, he authored 64 bills and resolutions; 41 became state laws.
“His legislative record shows his great concern for the well being of working families in the district,” Ben Figueroa, a lifelong friend, said Thursday.
Figueroa said Truan often visited him when Figueroa was director of the Kleberg County Human Services as a reference for issues affecting Kingsville. He still called Figueroa after he retired.
As children, Figueroa and Truan lived a few blocks away from each other. Later in life, Truan often mentioned growing up with meager means. Figueroa said Truan authored many bills that benefitted people of all ages, with a focus on education and health issues.
“He was the quintessential reformer who helped children, the elderly, veterans and the environment in the sense of protection,” Figueroa said. “Sen. Truan was the champion of bilingual education that brought about an innovative method of teaching children whose first language was Spanish, so they could learn English and be competitive in the mainstream society.”
Figueroa said prior to this reform, students and teachers could not speak Spanish on school campuses.
Figueroa said Truan was a protector of children’s rights, because he sponsored bills that established a birth defects registry to identify families who need services and to allow the Texas Department of Health to indentify problem areas where clusters of birth defects occur.
“Also, Senate Bill 90 gave the state, for the first time the authority to investigate human diseases caused by hazardous substances,” Figueroa said.
He added that Truan served on many committees, such as the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Committee on International Relations, Trade and Technology, formed to deal with the multitude of issues dealing with consequences of free trade with Mexico. Truan also served on the Appropriations Committee that oversaw the state’s budget.
Figueroa said Truan knew how to filibuster and could speak for hours. He also said Truan championed environmental protection for the citizens of Texas.
“He was a senator that fought for the common good and especially for those that were poor.” Figueroa said. “Truly Sen. Carlos F. Truan was a champion for the most in need and for those that otherwise cannot help themselves from exploitation by self-serving entities that are more concerned about money than they are about human health and welfare. (He was) a true public servant who was always concerned with ethics in government.”
Kingsville businessman Willie Garza said he and Truan were friends since childhood. They talked to each other almost every day.
“He was the brother I never had,” Garza said Wednesday at his business, The Man Shop in Kingsville. “I just talked to him Monday when he called me to find out about a friend’s services and ask about Kingsville politics.”
He said Truan had been sick recently, but was beginning to sound better when they talked.
“We were just kids when we worked at Pancho Zapata’s Plaza selling hamburgers,” Garza said. “He was 13 years old, and I was 10 years old.”
He said Truan worked to help support his mother and siblings.
Garza said both of them worked at Gafford’s Grocery Store. He said Truan demonstrated leadership qualities from a young age.
“He was going to be somebody,” Garza said. “He was a born leader. “
He said Truan helped students at Austin Elementary School when necessary.
“He played every sport in elementary and secondary school,” Garza said.
Truan was elected freshman, sophomore, junior and senior student class president.
“He had three jobs in college,” Garza said. “He delivered the Corpus newspaper early in the morning, worked at the A&I Maintenance Department during the day and at a service station at night.”
Garza said Truan became a charter member of El Dorado Club, a young men’s club in Kingsville in 1957. The club sponsored a debutante ball each year. The club also honored Truan for his achievements in 1998.
“He attended every ball every year except the last two,” Garza said.
Garza said he conducted Truan’s first political campaign in Kingsville.
“Sen. Truan will be remembered as a fighter for the common, ordinary people that did not have anyone to represent them,” Garza said. “He was kind and one that did not bow to pressure.”
Garza said Truan did a lot for bilingual education and TAMUK.
Kleberg County Judge Juan Escobar said he had known Truan for 30 years.
“He did so much for us, especially in the field of education,” Escobar said. “He definitely knew education was the key out of poverty.”
He said Truan was a good speaker, listener, and a great leader who was willing to fight for anything he believed in.
Escobar said he knew his family and friends were feeling pain at his loss.
“It is also being felt by many people who he benefitted,” Escobar said.
Former Kingsville City Commissioner Tomas Colin said Truan was the “champion of champs.”
He said Truan came from humble beginnings and succeeded in stature as Dean of the Senate. He also helped many interns in his Austin office.
“Many young people became inspired by him and became successful professionals because of his mentoring,” Colin said.
“I was honored and proud to have been a part of the city commission to have a street named in his honor,” said Colin, who served as city commissioner for eight years.
The city commission approved the renaming of Angle Road to Sen. Carlos F. Truan Boulevard on Sept. 30, 1987.
Lifelong Kingsville resident Joan Howe Nuesch remembered Truan as a classmate at H.M. King High School.
“I always found him to be extremely friendly to everybody, and (remember) the good work he did leading the student body,” Nuesch said. “He showed his leanings toward politics because he was elected president all four years in high school.”
Nuesch graduated with Truan in 1955. She said the last time she saw Truan was on Jan. 28, 2012, at a memorial service for Johnny Rocha, one of their classmates. Truan had coordinated the memorial service.
Longtime community leader Maggie Salinas praised Truan as a person who always remembered his hometown and told her he was proud he was born and raised in Kingsville.
“His strongest legacy is that he championed education for everybody,” she said. “He was so positive and so committed to whatever project he had undertaken.”
Salinas said Truan spoke often of his upbringing in Kingsville.
“I also remember him telling me once he was so appreciative of his high school teachers, especially Miss Olita Parman, a government teacher who encouraged him and taught him how to debate,” she said. “I talked to him about a year ago and we reminisced about our hometown.
“He was a jewel of a friend,” she added.
Hugo Berlanga, a former Corpus Christi state representative, said the senator mentored him when he first took office in 1977. Truan taught him how to master the legislative process and rules.
“I think his legacy will be that he opened the doors for minorities in Texas, especially in South Texas,” said Berlanga, who served as a state representative for 22 years. “He was the champion of bilingual education that allowed students to finish high school.”
Berlanga said the Texas bilingual education program served as a model throughout the United States.
He described Truan as a tireless worker with a high energy level.
“We were very blessed to have someone to work so hard and champion so many causes in South Texas like Sen. Truan,” Berlanga said.
Throughout the years, the late senator received numerous awards and recognitions. Texas A&M University Corpus Christi named the Carlos F. Truan Resources Center in his honor in 1996. The facility houses environmental studies services.
During the 2002-03 school year, the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District in South Texas named a junior high school in his honor.
Rene Ramos, the Carlos F. Truan Junior High School principal, said the district honored him because of his lifetime achievement awards and the legislation that helped the people and the advancement of education. Truan had received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Texas in Edinburg.
He said Truan had been scheduled to speak this year at the eighth grade graduation ceremony as he had in the past. Ramos said Truan often visited him and the school. Ramos said representatives from the school district planned to attend the memorial services.
“Everyone liked him and appreciated him,” Ramos said. “He was a man of the people.”