Former AZ Governor Raul Castro has passed away

Published: Apr. 10, 2015 at 12:31 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 24, 2015 at 12:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Memorial services are being arranged for Arizona's first and only Hispanic governor.

Raul Hector Castro died Friday morning at a hospice in San Diego.

He was 98.

His influence on Arizona lasted long after he left office in the mid 1970's.

Flags were flying at half staff across Arizona in Castro's memory.

Castro was Arizona's governor for two-and-a-half years in the 1970's.

He also served as  U.S. ambassador to three Latin American countries.

Castro overcame poverty as he grew up in Southern Arizona, and went on to graduate from college.

He strongly believed that education was the best way to a better life.

In his later years, Castro talked with students around the state.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said Castro "lived a full life of exemplary service to Arizona and its people."

We traveled to Nogales Friday where Castro spent his final years before moving to California last year to be near family.

Some say Raul Castro was a self-made man who was larger than life.

Nogales said goodbye to him last year.

Castro was born in Mexico and grew up in Arizona, one of 12 children.

His father died when he was a child. The family lived in poverty.

By the time he and his wife moved to Nogales, he had accomplished much.

He's being called a self-made man who was bigger than life, a dedicated public servant, a man who would not let the viciousness of extreme poverty and rampant discrimination stop him.

Former Nogales mayor Arturo Garino knew Castro well.

"I first met him in 1971 when I was a senior in high school," he said.

Castro knew education was the way out of poverty and he struggled to overcome obstacles in order to get his own education and to work.

"And he said that when he went to Flagstaff to get his education, how hard it was for him to do that," Garino said. "The work he had to get even though--he was even boxing. He was a boxer up there."

Castro would become the first and only Hispanic Pima County Attorney as well as Arizona governor.

He became ambassador to three countries, but in Nogales, he became a friend and mentor to many, encouraging involvement by everyone, especially Hispanics.

"The Hispanic community has to be more active," Castro said in April 2014. "You have to participate and run for office."

"If you wanted to learn you know he was there to teach you and to help you out, take your hand," Garino said. "So he was good man, too."

As governor, he made an impression on young politicians.

Peter Goudinoff was one of them.

"Here was a man who was secure in himself. he's had a--it was common of Hispanics of his generation-- he had a difficult time fighting discrimination, poverty and yet he did it. He did it. And he was really unshakable. The kind of man that--you weren't going to stare him down," said Goudinoff, former Arizona Senate Minority Leader from Tucson.

That was important as the New Democratic governor faced a Republican legislature that voted to repeal Medicaid.

Goudinoff was a freshman legislator at the time.

"The thing I remember most about Governor Castro is the day he saved Medicaid. That was 1977," Goudinoff said. "They thought, 'Oh, he won't veto it.' But he did. He vetoed their repeal. And they overrode him in the House, but in the Senate the override fell short by one vote."

Goudinoff calls Castro unique and bigger than life, a man of character from a time when circumstances and discrimination tried to hold him back,but failed.

"I think today things would be very different, would be much more collective, much more of a group effort and he was alone. And he did it alone," Goudinoff said.

The current Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, released the following statement on the passing of Raul Castro. 

"It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Arizona's cherished former Governor, Raúl Héctor Castro.

Arizonans will never forget Governor Castro. He was an honorable public servant, a history-maker, a beloved family man and a strong friend and fighter for Arizona. Whether as a county attorney, a superior court judge, a United States ambassador or - as we will best remember him - our 14th governor, his life and legacy of service is forever ingrained in our history. The thoughts and prayers of all Arizonans are with Governor Castro's family and loved ones during this difficult time.

While our state will grieve this immense loss, it's also important to celebrate the esteemed life and legacy of a great man who lived a full life of exemplary service to Arizona and its people.

In honor of Governor Castro, I have ordered that all state flags be lowered to half-staff."

Details will be forthcoming from the Governor's Office on plans to honor the life and legacy of Gov. Castro.

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