Mexican tapestery pattern

Search Interviews:


Learn More:

Funded in part by a grant from TexTreasures and by the UT Arlington Library.

Richard Telles

Read Transcript

(121 pages)

Listen to the interview


Born in 1922, Richard Telles was raised in El Paso. He served as El Paso City Clerk, Democratic Party Precinct chairman, President of the American National Insurance Council, and El Paso County Commissioner. He was a member of the Masons, the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASSO), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and helped to form Viva Kennedy Clubs in El Paso. He has been honored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At the time of his death in 2003, Richard Telles was president of the El Paso Independent School District board of trustees, the first Mexican-American in that role in the last century.

Interview Summary:

The interview begins with Richard Telles noting his family's long history in the Rio Grande Valley and how his father, Don Ramon, began the family's political involvement when elected precinct constable in 1932 and subsequently urged his sons into politics. Richard Telles discusses the role of heavy drinking in his life and how his socializing kept him well-acquainted with Mexican politicians in Ciudad Juárez where he continued drinking after the bars in El Paso closed for the night. He also talks about his early involvement in union activity which resulted in a civil suit that brought him a financial settlement with which he purchased the first of his many cantinas. A self-proclaimed power broker, Richard Telles details how he enabled Mexican-American voter registration in El Paso and got the voters to the polls for the election of his brother, Raymond L. Telles, as county clerk and later on as the first Hispanic mayor of El Paso. Richard Telles describes the workings of his political machine to get himself elected to public office and how other political candidates eagerly sought his assistance in garnering the Mexican-American vote for their own elections. He also discusses his support for his son, Raymond R. Telles, who at the time of the interview, had already served as a city councilman in El Paso and was running for the office of mayor. He compares African Americans and Mexican-Americans in their struggles against racial discrimination. Throughout the interview, he discusses such notable Mexican Americans as Eladio Sandoval, Billie Sol Estes, Ralph Yarborough and his father Joe Yarborough, Alicia Chacón, Rogelio Sánchez, Silvestre Reyes, Henry B. Gonzales, Richard Perez, and Henry Cisneros. He mentions his support for Lloyd Bentsen and talks about the role of the Raza Unida Party in El Paso.

Locations of residence or activity:

El Paso

Interview Date: