Cruz Reynoso: a hero

The Latino community in the United States thirsts for leaders who can set an example for new generations. We think there is an extraordinary man among us who has not received the attention he deserves: Cruz Reynoso.

Reynoso, born in Brea in 1931, was also a farmworker, one of eleven children born to an immigrant couple from Los Altos de Jalisco. The family harvested oranges, plums and grapes in California’s fields. As a young boy, Cruz already had a wish for justice: at age 12, he got the U.S. Postal Service to agree to distribute the mail to Mexican neighborhoods in rural areas.

That was just the beginning of a life dedicated to justice. Cruz Reynoso not only graduated from high school, but he attended Pomona College on a scholarship, served in the Army and graduated from UC Berkeley’s law school in 1958. After a brief period in private practice, Reynoso began an illustrious career in public service and working for nonprofits that help the needy.

Reynoso worked in the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He became an advisor and then member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. During the 1970s, he directed California Rural Legal Assistance-an organization that still provides legal assistance to immigrants and farmworkers-leading it to new accomplishments.

Reynoso was a pacesetter. He became the first Latino in the Court of Appeal in Sacramento, and then, appointed in 1982 by then-Governor Jerry Brown, the first Latino justice in the California Supreme Court.

His legacy is extensive. In 2000, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his “compassion and work on behalf of the downtrodden.” Reynoso continues to be part of academic life, currently at the UC Davis law school, and he teaches, writes and comments on civil liberties and justice for immigrants and Latinos.

Reynoso is our hero. From this forum, we honor him as he deserves, with deep gratitude and the admiration of his community.