Image courtesy of Library of Congress
An eight-term Member from New Mexico, Antonio Fernandez chaired the Committee on Memorials during the 79th Congress (1945–1947).
Antonio Manuel Fernández
, the fourth Hispanic-American Representative elected to the House from New Mexico, was born on this date. He attended local schools and studied at Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Fernández subsequently earned a law degree at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, returning to Sante Fe to open a private practice. He also served in a number of prominent positions such as assistant district attorney and in the state assembly. Elected to the 78th Congress
(1943–1945) during World War II, Fernández pursued a bold agenda during his freshman term. He lobbied for the rank promotion of prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater, many of whom were New Mexico National Guardsmen. “Promotion,” he declared, “. . . is only a token of the Nation’s gratitude for the valor of all those men who held the Japanese at bay for many months without hope of rescue.” Their families, he added, looked “to Congress for some recognition of the aggravated circumstances under which they fell.” Fernández also supported the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (or G. I. Bill) of 1944, and the establishment of an Air Force academy. He was successfully re-elected to seven more terms. On October 25, 1956, Fernández suffered a stroke while campaigning for an eighth term. Even after he lapsed into a coma, voters returned him to office on November 6 though he passed away the following day. Majority Leader John McCormack
of Massachusetts remembered Fernández as “a great man in this body” whose legislative contributions were “of great benefit not only to the people of his State . . . but to the people of our entire country.”