Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Antonio Manuel Fernández was born in Springer, Colfax County, New Mexico on January 17, 1902. He received his early education in a one-room school house. After graduating from New Mexico Normal University (now Highlands University) in Las Vegas, New Mexico, he worked in the office of Judge H.A. Kiker. From 1925 to 1930 he worked as a court reporter in New Mexico's Eighth Judicial District while studying law. In 1931 he received a law degree from Cumberland University Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. That same year he returned to New Mexico, where he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico.
For the next ten years Fernández held several elected as well as appointed positions in New Mexico. In 1933 he served as assistant district attorney for New Mexico's Eighth Judicial District. The following year he practiced law in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was elected to the State legislature as a representative from Colfax County, where he served during 1935. From 1935 to 1936 he was chief tax attorney for the State Tax Commission. From 1937 to 1941 he held the position of first assistant attorney general. In 1941 and 1942 he was a member of the first New Mexico Public Service Commission.
In 1942 Fernández was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was reelected for seven consecutive terms. While in Congress he served on the following committees: Claims, Indian Affairs, Insular Affairs, Irrigation and Reclamation, Mines and Mining, and Public Lands. All of these committee assignments were of extreme importance for the issues of the day in New Mexico. From his seat on the Indian Affairs Committee, Fernández sponsored numerous pieces of legislation for the benefit of the Navajo and Hopi Native American population in New Mexico, including funding for hospitals and education.
In the 79th Congress Fernández served as the Chairman of the Committee on Memorials, and in the 81st Congress he became the first Hispanic to serve on the Appropriations Committee. His last reelection occurred after he suffered a stroke on October 15, 1956, while campaigning in Las Vegas, New Mexico. While he remained in a coma, voters reelected him for an eighth term. He died the day after the election on November 7, 1956 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.