Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight
The first Latino Presidential candidate was Benjamin ‘Ben’ Fernandez, who was none other than the First Chairman and Co-Founder of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Ben Fernandez was an American politician, financial consultant, and special ambassador. He was a renown Republican Leader who ran for President of the United States three times; once in 1980, again in 1984, and finally in 1988, making him America’s first major-party presidential contender of Hispanic origin. According to the LA Times, Fernandez’ status as the first Hispanic Presidential candidate was largely forgotten in subsequent decades; when New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, running in 2008, declared himself to be the first-ever Hispanic candidate, his statement went mostly uncorrected.
Benjamin Fernandez was living proof that America is the greatest country in the world! Ben was born to Mexican parents who were illegal immigrants; born in a railroad boxcar, yet, in one generation, was a self-made millionaire who became a viable candidate for President of the United States. It could only happen in America!
He served in World War II, then began a successful business career. He began to get involved with politics in the late 1960s, co-founding the Republican National Hispanic Council, that later would change its name to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Ben served as a fundraiser for Republican candidates starting with President Richard Nixon in 1972. In 1973, Nixon appointed him Special Ambassador to Paraguay. Some of his political accomplishments include: National Co-Chairman, worked in the Finance Committee to Re-Elect the President in 1972, and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee in 1976.
Fernandez had three daughters with his first wife. He remarried later in life to Jacqueline Coon, and they lived in Calabasas, California. He continued his work professionally and politically even after his retirement, often traveling throughout the country as a consulting economist. In 2000 he served on the McCain Presidential Finance Committee, his last political involvement before his death on April 25, 2000.