Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Solomon Ortiz was born in Robstown, Nueces County, Texas on June 3, 1937. He attended Robstown public schools and obtained the G.E.D. while serving in the U.S. Army. He continued his studies at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. During 1960-1962 he served in the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of specialist, fourth class. In 1962 he graduated from the Institute of Applied Science, an investigative and identification school in Chicago, Illinois. From 1965 to 1968 he served as Nueces County constable. In 1968 he became the first Hispanic to be elected Nueces County Commissioner and served until 1976 when he was elected sheriff, becoming the first Hispanic county sheriff in Nueces County. That same year he received a law enforcement officer's certificate from the National Sheriffs Training Institute. He was sheriff until 1982, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas' newly-created 27th District, which includes Corpus Christi in Nueces County and Brownsville in Cameron County. In 1990 sixty percent of the population in these two counties was Hispanic. He received sixty-four percent of the vote in his first run for Congress and has subsequently faced little challenge in winning reelection; he has run unopposed in three general elections.
During his first term in Congress, Ortiz was assigned to the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and the Armed Services Committee. A staunch supporter of the Space program in the 1980's, during the Cold War he voted for MX missile funding and opposed a 1983 resolution to ban nuclear weapons testing. He worked on meeting the economic needs of his district. In 1984 legislation he proposed was enacted into federal law allowing oil and gas leasing on federal lands in Corpus Christi. He also worked to maintain South Texas' military installations, when faced with closing during the first half of the 1990's.
In the 102nd Congress Ortiz chaired the Hispanic Caucus and worked on the Voting Rights Act of 1992, which increased access to second language voting materials. In the 103rd Congress, Ortiz became the Chair of the newly created Oceanography, Gulf of Mexico, and Outer Continental Shelf Subcommittee. A conservative democrat, he supported legislation to require unpaid family and medical leave, and a bill to reduce the deficit.
In the 104th Congress, Ortiz was assigned to the House Resources Committee, and became the Ranking Minority on the National Security Subcommittee on Installations and Facilities.
Publications by Solomon P. Ortiz:
"America's Third World: Colonias." State Government News 32 (January 1989): pp. 20-22.