Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995


Image of Herman Badillo
[Office of the Historian]

United States Representative
Democrat of New York

Ninety-second - Ninety-fifth Congresses
January 3, 1971 - December 31, 1977

Herman Badillo, the first Congressman born in Puerto Rico to represent a district in the continental United States, was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico on August 21, 1929. A tuberculosis epidemic claimed the lives of both of his parents. When he was eleven years old, he moved with his aunt to New York City, where he attended public schools. In 1951 he earned a B.A. degree from City College of New York, and in 1954 he received an LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School. The following year he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in New York City. He worked as an accountant while he was in law school, and became a certified public accountant in 1956. Two years later he joined the Caribe Democratic Club, where he learned organizational and leadership skills. He joined the Kennedy Club and organized a voter registration drive for the Bronx. In 1962, Mayor Robert Wagner appointed him Commissioner of the Department of Relocation, a post he held until 1965, when he was elected Bronx Borough president. In 1967 he was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, and in 1968 and 1972 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York in 1969. He tried again in 1973, but finished in second place with twenty-eight percent of the vote.

In 1970 Badillo was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 21st District in the South Bronx. He won with eighty-four percent of the vote and was reelected to the three succeeding Congresses, each time with an impressive percentage of the vote. During his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives he gained a seat on the Committee on Education and Labor, where he worked on legislation on behalf of his district, where at the time forty-eight percent of the people spoke English as a second language. Through his efforts, job training for unemployed non-English-speaking citizens was included in the Comprehensive Manpower Act of 1973.

Badillo also served on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Small Business Committee, where he had a seat on the Minority Enterprise and General Oversight Subcommittee. These committee assignments were of particular importance to his constituents, many of whom lived in poverty and had low levels of education. He supported numerous legislative initiatives to establish community development programs, and he labored to expand educational opportunities by proposing tax credits for educational expenses, as well as provisions aimed at encouraging disadvantaged youth to pursue careers in the health professions.

Badillo also supported legislation intended to fight various forms of discrimination, including age and marital status discrimination in employment. In addition he supported energy conservation programs and incentive programs to promote the commercial application of solar energy and renewable resources. Badillo resigned from Congress on December 31, 1977 to become deputy mayor of New York City, a position he held until September 1979, when he resumed his law practice in New York City. From February 1984 until May 1986 he served on the Board of Directors of the State of New York Mortgage Agency. In 1986 he was an unsuccessful candidate for New York State comptroller. In 1993 he ran as a Republican-Liberal fusion candidate for New York City comptroller, but lost. He resides in the Bronx.

Publications by Herman Badillo:
Plain Talk: The Politics of Administration. Greenvale, N.Y.: Department of Health Care and Public Administration, C.W. Post Center, Long Island University, 1981.

with Milton Haynes. A Bill of No Rights: Attica and the American Prison System. New York: Outerbridge and Lazard; distributed by Dutton, 1972.

For further reading:
Newlon, Clarke. Famous Puerto Ricans. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975, pp. 64-76.

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