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Raymond L. Telles, the first Hispanic Mayor of a major American city , the first Hispanic U.S. Ambassador, a decorated U.S. Air Force Colonel and presidential advisor passed away on March 8, 2013 at his daughter's home in Sherman Oaks, California. Telles was born September 5, 1915 in El Paso, Texas and was educated at Cathedral High School and Texas College of Mines (UTEP). He began his civil service with the United States Department of Justice. He was later drafted to serve in the Army in 1941 and reported to Fort Bliss, Texas. In 1942, he attended the Officers' Candidate School in Florida and graduated as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. From 1942 to 1945, Telles served at Kelly Air Force Field as head of the Lend-Lease Program to Latin America. During World War II, he was responsible for delivering over 1000 airplanes to allies in Latin America and organizing training programs for their officers. As a result of his distinguished service in the US Air Force, he received many honors, including the Order of the Southern Cross from Brazil, the Columbian Wings, the Mexican Legion of Merit and the Peruvian Flying Cross. After the war, Raymond Telles was assigned as Liaison Officer for the USAF and Advisor to the Commanding General of the Mexican Air Force. Raymond Telles began his political career in 1948 when he was elected County Clerk of El Paso County and served for four terms. His election inaugurated a new era in Mexican American politics in El Paso where veterans returning from the war were determined to fight for democracy at home. In 1952, Telles served in the Korean Conflict where he commanded the U.S. Air Force 67th Tactical and Reconnaissance Group for which he earned many decorations, including the Bronze Star. He ultimately attained the rank of Colonel in the Air Force. He was privileged to briefly serve as an aid to both Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. After a hard-fought campaign, he was elected Mayor of El Paso in 1957 heralding a major breakthrough in the Mexican American pursuit for political representation. Telles opened the door of opportunity for Hispanics across the city, particularly in the Police and Fire Departments. He implemented policy to ensure equal access for African Americans to City employment, as well as theaters and public facilities. His collaborative, inclusive and unifying leadership won him an uncontested second term. In 1961, Telles was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, making history once again as the first person of Hispanic heritage to serve as a United States Ambassador. He served in this post until 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Telles as Ambassador and Chairman of the U.S.-Mexico Border Commission. Later, President Richard Nixon appointed him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C), and President Gerald Ford re-appointed him to this commission. Ambassador Telles was an advisor and friend to both Democratic and Republican presidents, including Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Raymond L. Telles was married for 68 years to the love of his life, Delfina Navarro Telles. He is survived by his two daughters, Dr. Cynthia Telles of Sherman Oaks, California and Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin of Evanston, Illinois, and grandchildren Raymond D. Jimenez and Daniel Irvin-Telles. A Visitation will be held on Friday, March 15, 2013 from 5:00PM to 8:00 PM, with a Vigil Service at 7:00PM at Funeraria Del Angel-Harding Orr & McDaniel. Mass of the Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM at San Ignacio Catholic Church, 408 Park Street, El Paso, Texas. Interment will follow at Evergreen Cemetery, 4301 Alameda Ave. El Paso, Texas. In honor of the late Ambassador Telles, his family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Raymond L Telles Scholarship Fund for the benefit of students of El Paso. Donations may be made at: Services entrusted to Harding-Orr & McDaniel Funeral Home, 320 Montana Ave. El Paso, TX 79902.

Published in El Paso Times from Mar. 8 to Mar. 23, 2013
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