Lauro Cavazos, first Latino Cabinet member, dies

Mar 18, 2022, 9:29 AM | Updated: 9:47 am

Lauro F. Cavazos Jr., a Texas ranch foreman’s son who rose to become the first Latino to serve in a presidential Cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Education during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has died.

His death at his Massachusetts home Tuesday was confirmed by Texas Tech University, where he served as president from 1980 until 1988. He was 95. No cause of death was given.

A Democrat whose entire career up to that point had been spent in academia, Cavazos was appointed education secretary in 1988 late in Reagan’s second term, a move seen by some as a cynical attempt to boost Bush’s presidential aspirations among Hispanic voters, which Reagan denied.

He was seen as less outspoken and less confrontational than his predecessor, the highly conservative William Bennett.

He vowed to seek better funding for schools, focus federal services on high-risk children, and improve outcomes, especially for Hispanic, Indigenous and immigrant students. In his two years as Education Secretary, Cavazos was known for promoting the idea of giving parents the option of deciding where to send their children to school — with limits to prevent segregation — and advocating bilingual education.

He called the dropout rate among Hispanic students “a national tragedy” in September 1989.

Despite attempts to keep out of politics in Washington, he found it difficult.

“I don’t like politics,” he told Texas Tech Today in 2015. “I went there really to try and improve education, and I think we did a pretty good job. I can take pride in the fact that as secretary of education I really focused the federal government on the need to improve the education of minority students and how to do it.”

Cavazos resigned his cabinet post in December 1990, but according to AP reports at the time, he was fired for failing to make enough progress in reaching the administration’s education goals.

“I am especially proud of the contributions I was able to make in expanding choice in education, promoting the executive order on excellence in education for Hispanic Americans, and raising awareness of the growing diversity of America’s student population,” Cavazos wrote in his resignation letter.

Following his resignation, he came under scrutiny by the Justice Department for allegedly using frequent flier miles earned from official travel to obtain free airline tickets for his wife, who often traveled with him on official business. Federal regulations at the time required employees to turn over travel bonuses to the government. The investigation was eventually dropped.

Cavazos grew up on the King Ranch near Kingsville, Texas, and his family became the first Hispanic family at what had been a segregated school district, according to Texas Tech.

After a stint in the Army from 1944 until 1946, he enrolled at the Texas College of Arts and Industries, which is now Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Originally a journalism major, he discovered a passion for biology and transferred to Texas Tech.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech, and a doctorate in physiology from Iowa State University.

He taught anatomy for 10 years at the Medical College of Virginia, then moved to the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston from 1964 until 1980, including a five-year stint as dean from 1975 until 1980.

During his time at Tufts, he became known as an accomplished investigator in endocrinology as well as for his work in academic health planning.

“Dean Cavazos was passionate about education and led the medical school through an important time in its development, helping to strengthen its reputation for academic excellence,” current Tufts medical school Dean Helen Boucher said in a statement.

He was president of Texas Tech from 1980 until 1988. After his government service, he returned to Tufts as a professor of public health and family medicine.

“Although Dr. Cavazos became a force in higher education, he came from a humble background, and he never forgot that or the impact his work had on students in similar circumstances,” current Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec said in a statement.

He and his wife, Peggy, married in 1954 and had 10 children.

One of his brothers was Gen. Richard Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general in the U.S. Army. He died in 2017.

A family member reached at his Massachusetts home Friday said no funeral plans were available.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dave Bautista, from left, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amu...
Associated Press

‘Knock at the Cabin’ knocks off ‘Avatar’ at the box office

NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in almost two months, the box office doesn’t belong to blue people. After seven weeks as the top film in theaters, “Avatar: The Way of Water” was finally knocked out of the No. 1 spot by the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin” and the […]
12 hours ago
NASCAR Cup Series drivers Chris Buescher (17) and Alex Bowman (48) participate during a practice se...
Associated Press

Ally Financial expands NASCAR spend with 2 new partnerships

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ally Financial has expanded its growing portfolio as a top NASCAR sponsor with a deal to become the official bank of the stock car series and NASCAR-owned race tracks. The multiyear deal was announced Sunday ahead of NASCAR’s exhibition extravaganza at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and led to the creation […]
12 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Friday, Feb. 3, 202...
Associated Press

Biden’s State of the Union to tout policy wins on economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will use his second State of the Union address on Tuesday to remind Americans of how their lives have been improved over his first two years in office, as he tries to confront pessimism in the country and navigate the tricky politics of a newly divided Washington. Rather than […]
12 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

NFL offering free CPR training during Super Bowl week

The NFL and American Heart Association will provide free CPR education in Arizona throughout Super Bowl week as part of the NFL Experience.
12 hours ago
/// State Sen. Clarence Lam, a Maryland Democrat who is a physician at Johns Hopkins, speaks during...
Associated Press

As many as 80K Marylanders could lose Medicaid eligibility

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland officials are preparing for as many as 80,000 residents who could no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage this spring, as the federal government reinstates a requirement that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic for states to verify the eligibility of recipients. Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit […]
12 hours ago
FILE - A fuel trucks drives along a highway in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 27, 2023. European Union go...
Associated Press

Europe bans Russian diesel, other oil products over Ukraine

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Europe imposed a ban Sunday on Russian diesel fuel and other refined oil products, slashing energy dependency on Moscow and seeking to further crimp the Kremlin’s fossil fuel earnings as punishment for invading Ukraine. The ban comes along with a price cap agreed by the Group of Seven allied democracies. The […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Lauro Cavazos, first Latino Cabinet member, dies