Growing up, I was surrounded by old family stories told to me by relatives around the dining table about those who had passed on. I learned about Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez’s tenacity in doing what he believed in, which was standing up for what was right by fighting segregation, and the impact he had on the Democratic Party in his many years in Congress. I also learned about Judge Manuel Raymond, who was known as the “Black Hawk” to his colleagues in the law enforcement community.
He was my great-grandmother’s father, the jovial one who always adored his children and his grandchildren. In the stories I learned about him, he was larger than life, and was greatly respected by many and feared by those who came before him in court in Laredo. Mane, my great-grandmother, who sat down with me over a cup of coffee with my mother, told me about one family legend about Judge Raymond.
“One night, we had left with our parents for the evening. Two thieves broke into the house to steal the family silver. They had their bags full when they passed by the foyer, and looked up at the painting. Judge Raymond’s stern visage looked down on them, and the thieves realized they’d broken into the Black Hawk’s house. They dumped the bags of silver onto the floor, and immediately left the scene.
The judge, when he found out about the break-in, asked his friends in the law enforcement community to find out who had tried to steal the family silver. The two culprits were found, and sentenced for attempted theft in his courtroom.”
I also heard stories about how he greatly respected and loved his wife, Santos, and how heartbroken he was when she died in her mid-forties, leaving behind his young daughters and sons. The youngest was just six years old. Mane was the oldest of the children, and she was married to Emeterio Flores, a mining engineer, with my grandmother, Mami at the time. She took in the children, and cared for them like they were her own children.
Mane spoke with such love whenever she talked about Judge Raymond, and the influence he had in politics. She said to me, eyes glittering with pride, as she gestured, “If it wasn’t for Judge Raymond, LBJ would not have won that Senate seat, and he would not have been President.”
“Mane, how was that possible?” I asked, eyes wide with surprise, as my eleven-year old self fidgeted at the table.
“He was known as a patron here in Laredo, and he had many friends and supporters. He was greatly respected, and LBJ knew this. When LBJ was running for that Senate seat, he called upon Judge Raymond as a border patron to help get the voters out to the polls. Judge Raymond picked up the phone, and would call as many people he knew that could get supporters out to the polls in Webb County to help LBJ win that seat in the Senate.”
I read more about what Judge Manuel Raymond did to turn out the vote in Webb County, and found out that it really wasn’t the determining factor in how LBJ won, but it was the votes that another border patron, George Parr, who was known as “Duke of Duval” had gotten in Jim Wells County.
What was more interesting to me, as I got further into my research was the battle that my great-great-grandfather had with the political machine called “The Independent Club” which was one of the strongest political machines in South Texas. The club consisted of the well-to-do and elected officials at every level. The political machine controlled all local elected officials, and made endorsements of state and national candidates that would have the voting power of Webb County behind them.
In 1932, according to The Handbook of Texas Online, Judge Raymond headed the Progressive Peoples’ Party to oppose The Independent Club at the elections. Judge Raymond, even though he tried as hard as he could, he failed to capture any of the elected positions in office. Just two years later in 1934, Judge Raymond was asked to join the Independent Club, and he did so in 1934.
Then from on there, Judge Manuel Raymond exerted political control, and tremendous influence over county politics. He helped organize elections, supported candidates, and spoke out on behalf of LBJ, and other prominent politicians during that time period. Judge Manuel Raymond passed away on December 20th, 1955, one year before my mother was born.
Mane told me how hard it had been for Judge Raymond growing up, as the son of a pioneer Texas Ranger who was often absent from the household. He was born in Brownsville, Texas, on September 13th, 1892, to Teresa (Flores) Raymond and Gabriel C. Raymond, who was a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. After coming to Texas, Judge Raymond’s father was Foreman of The Kennedy Ranch, and was appointed Immigration Officer.
Judge Raymond attended Southwest Texas State Normal at San Marcos, and served in the Quartermasters Corps at Camp Travis. After serving there, he entered the law office of Judge John Pope in Laredo, taking law correspondence classes while doing so. He was married to Santos in 1915, with six children. Five of these children are still alive today, and two of the Raymond sons have his striking features, with the obsidian black hair, the broad cheekbones, and the piercing eyes.
Mane told me that I had politics in my veins, from Henry B., from Judge Raymond, from Congressman Chuck Kazen, who was married to Mane’s sister, Tia Connie, and from the mayors of Mapimi deep in the desert of Mexico. She said that with that kind of history, that it was no wonder why I was so passionate about politics and stubborn about what I believed in. She told me to be proud of where I came from, and I am.