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Descended from an early Hispanic settler, Ron de Lugo became a fixture in territorial politics as the U.S. Virgin Islands gained greater autonomy in the late 20th century. A well-known radio personality and an early territorial senator, de Lugo successfully lobbied to create the position of Delegate to the U.S. House, which he held for a total of two decades. He proved to be a key figure in U.S. territorial policy. In the words of a contemporary, de Lugo “left an indelible mark on the history of the United States territories and the freely associated states.”1 Barred by the House Rules from voting on the floor for all but one Congress, he managed nevertheless to maneuver money and services to the Virgin Islands and to defend its economic and political interests. Describing his home territory as “a community of people of different origins and diverse cultural backgrounds,” de Lugo sought for his constituents “the full benefits of our citizenship … just as we have met our responsibility as citizens.”2

Ron de Lugo was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on August 2, 1930, to a family with deep roots in the Caribbean. The de Lugos had emigrated from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands in 1879. Ron de Lugo’s grandfather, Antonio Lugo y Suarez, was a merchant on St. Thomas, and his father, Angelo, carried on the family business. Ron de Lugo attended Saints Peter and Paul School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, before transferring to the Colegio San José in Puerto Rico. He enlisted in the army for a two-year tour in 1948, working as a program director for the U.S. Armed Forces Radio network. After leaving the military, de Lugo worked in broadcasting as a civilian, helping to found WSTA, the first radio station in St. Thomas. De Lugo gained island-wide fame for his radio persona, the wisecracking comedian Mango Jones, as well as for appearances in local plays and benefit concerts.3 In 1952 de Lugo used his radio show to revive the St. Thomas Carnival, a days-long celebration of the island’s cultural heritage.4 De Lugo and his first wife, Maria Morales Viera, had three children—James, Angela Maria, and Maria Cristina—before divorcing.5 James (Jay) de Lugo died in a car accident in Virginia in 1972 at age 20.6 Ron de Lugo later married Sheila Paiewonsky.

In 1955 de Lugo moved to St. Croix, where he won election to the Second Virgin Islands Legislature as an At-Large Democrat in 1956.7 The youngest member of the legislature, he embarked on a career of nearly four decades in Virgin Islands politics. In 1960 de Lugo won election as the territory’s representative to the Democratic National Committee. The following year, he took a break from the legislature when he was appointed by the territorial governor to act as a liaison for local concerns in St. Croix. De Lugo returned to the legislature from 1962 to 1966. In 1968 Virgin Islanders elected de Lugo the territorial representative to the U.S. government. Essentially working as a lobbyist for issues affecting the Virgin Islands, de Lugo set his sights on winning a congressional seat for the territory. In 1972 the House considered legislation that provided for popularly elected Delegates for the Virgin Islands and Guam, who would not be permitted a vote on the House Floor. Having testified in support of the bill before several congressional committees, and having lobbied intensely on its behalf, de Lugo called its signature into law on April 10, 1972, “a sweet victory” and considered this one of his greatest accomplishments as a territorial advocate.8

De Lugo subsequently set out to win the Territorial Delegate position he had lobbied to create, officially announcing his candidacy on May 23, 1972. De Lugo was unopposed in the Democratic primary almost until the June 1 filing deadline. But at the last minute, Leroy Mercer mounted a challenge, claiming that “scores of Democrats indicated a desire for a meaningful choice, not only in the general elections but in the primaries too.”9 Mercer campaigned aggressively against de Lugo, charging that the territorial representative had brought little economic change to the Virgin Islands during his tenure. De Lugo reminded his constituents of the federal programs and the money he had drawn to the islands.10 With the support of the local Democratic organization, he handily defeated Mercer in the July 11 primary by a three-to-one margin.11 The general election was even less competitive; the island’s leading third party—Independent Citizens Movement, which was popular among the mostly poor, black population—did not field a candidate.12 De Lugo faced black Republican George Schneider, a U.S. Army veteran, lawyer, and social worker.13 Both candidates took stands that were popular with Virgin Islanders, campaigning on extending federal benefits to territorial residents and exempting them from the draft during the unpopular Vietnam War. De Lugo again prevailed with a nearly three-to-one victory, earning 73 percent of the vote. This “popular mandate,” as he designated it, was representative of his re-election campaigns; throughout his career, de Lugo typically won by more than 70 percent of the vote.14

De Lugo’s arrival in Washington for the start of the 93rd Congress (1973–1975) marked the fulfillment of one of his campaign promises. Minutes after he and Delegate Antonio Won Pat of Guam were sworn in as the first Delegates to represent their respective territories, the House narrowly voted to give the four Territorial Delegates a vote in their committees. De Lugo credited the “slick political maneuvering” of Representative Philip Burton of California—chairman of the Subcommittee on Territorial and Insular Affairs, an advocate for Delegate rights in Congress, and a leader in enacting congressional reform in the early 1970s—for the addition of this privilege to the package of changes in the House Rules.15 The Democratic Caucus, which determined the direction of party policy and strategy, also supported giving Delegates a vote.16

Along with other representatives for U.S. territories, de Lugo sought and won a position on the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, where he could monitor and introduce legislation affecting the Virgin Islands. In his second term, he added a seat on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee.17 He was also a founding member of the House Territorial Caucus.

His first piece of legislation, introduced on February 5, 1973, and co-authored with Territorial Delegate Won Pat, proposed an amendment to the Constitution that granted citizens in the Virgin Islands and Guam the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections.18 De Lugo pointed out that Virgin Islanders had earned this right, noting that election turnouts were routinely near 80 percent, “notably higher than in all but a few communities in the 50 states.” He emphasized the islands’ patriotism, particularly during the Vietnam War. “We in the Virgin Islands have recognized that the rights, obligations, and privileges of citizenship demand commitment and sacrifice,” he told his colleagues. “We have unquestioningly risen to the defense of our country whenever and wherever it has been necessary to preserve America’s Freedom and to secure liberty and the right to self-determination elsewhere.”19 The legislation ultimately died in the Judiciary Committee, but de Lugo obtained significant support from the Congressional Black Caucus as a show of solidarity with the black residents of the territory who made up nearly 80 percent of its population.20

De Lugo sought greater self-determination for the islands’ territorial government, and he won for the Virgin Islands’ legislature the right to determine procedure for filling vacancies. (Previously, vacancies were filled by the governor’s appointees.) “Direct election by the people is the only method by which an individual may attain membership in the House of Representatives.… It is this fact which makes this body the most important democratic institution in the nation,” he observed. “If the Legislature of the Virgin Islands is to truly be the people’s forum at the territorial level, it must also maintain this qualification.”21 De Lugo also lobbied for a constitutional convention in the Virgin Islands, which would allow residents a chance to write their own governing document. He emphasized a greater need for autonomy in light of the islands’ increasing prosperity, which paralleled a well-publicized increase in crime.22 His request ultimately passed both houses with bipartisan support in October 1976.23 De Lugo met with frustration at home, however, because Virgin Islands voters rejected the constitution to avoid higher local taxes and the costs associated with self-government.24

The islands’ economic health depended on de Lugo’s ability to obtain federal dollars, increase government spending, and gain greater control over private investment. Taxation was a significant issue for Virgin Islanders because they were subject to a unique system; since 1954 the islands’ workforce had paid income taxes under a mirror structure wherein federal taxes were paid into the territory’s general treasury.25 The mirror tax system was a double-edged sword for the islands’ coffers because while the Virgin Islands received federal money directly, its use of funds was regulated. Moreover, the territorial government lost money whenever the federal government reduced tax rates.26 After major federal tax cuts in 1975, de Lugo helped shepherd a bill through the House that not only loaned the Virgin Islands money as a stopgap for its fiscal bleeding, but also granted the government the authority to levy a surtax of up to 10 percent of taxpayers’ annual federal obligation.27

De Lugo also sought benefits from social services, including Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, for Virgin Islands residents when Congress left unchanged sections of the Social Security Act that capped spending limits. Stateside lawmakers noted that since Virgin Islanders did not pay federal taxes, they should receive fewer social services. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas expressed a viewpoint of the mirror tax system shared by many mainland politicians during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Assistance. “I think the record should be clear,” Dole noted, “that taxes are not paid to the Federal Treasury; when we talk about discrimination against any citizen we have to make the record complete. That is a factor.” De Lugo responded, “As you know, it has been the policy of the Congress of the United States that the territories should retain these tax moneys to help build their economies.”28 He noted that Virgin Islanders generally paid more taxes than the average American citizen and cited a 1976 report from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare that said, “The current fiscal treatment of Puerto Rico and the territories under the Social Security Act is unduly discriminatory.”29 De Lugo’s testimony convinced both houses to incorporate provisions to increase public assistance for the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.30

De Lugo’s attention to the Virgin Islands’ economy also focused on securing greater command of its land and tourist trade. De Lugo sought to transfer the title to Water Island—the territory’s fourth-largest island, which was then under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior—to the Virgin Islands’ government to preserve its beaches for Virgin Islanders.31 He also sought the ownership of submerged lands, requesting the use of the rules that applied to coastal states, which grant state sovereignty out to sea, three miles from the mean high-tide mark. Transferring ownership to the territorial governments, he argued, would “eliminate the present cumbersome and duplicative administrative processes which must be undertaken before these lands may be beneficially utilized.”32 He also offered an amendment to the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, calling for more federal funding for airport construction and expansion projects in the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. “The Virgin Islands, because of their isolated position, are uniquely dependent upon air traffic for their economic survival,” de Lugo told his colleagues. “The lack of fuel resources and raw material makes the islands particularly dependent upon the money generated by the tourist trade, much of which arrives by air.”33

In 1978, de Lugo announced he would not seek re-election, in order to run against incumbent Juan Luis for territorial governor of the Virgin Islands, noting that he had “accomplished about everything I came for, and then some.”34 He officially announced his candidacy on March 28 and was confident enough to delay heavy campaigning until Congress recessed in August.35 Luis ran as an Independent, although he had been appointed as an Independent Citizens Movement Party candidate when popular governor Cecil King died earlier that year. De Lugo touted the federal money he had brought to the island, emphasizing his responsible fiscal management and his relationship with Washington. He challenged his opponent’s spending habits and pointed to the higher rate of crime in the islands.36 De Lugo hit Luis hard for delaying and eventually withholding his endorsement of de Lugo’s pending immigration adjustment bill, and later criticized him for failing to offer an alternative plan.37 The campaign soon turned vitriolic, with both candidates depending on the local courts and on mediators to arbitrate everything from the debate schedule to the structure of the ballots.38 Voter weariness due to the candidates’ quibbling, coupled with de Lugo’s “overconfidence” and Luis’s connections in St. Croix, ultimately led to the challenger’s defeat; de Lugo garnered just 40 percent of the vote.39 Most damaging was de Lugo’s weak support from the Democratic machine—primarily his lack of key endorsements from the islands’ senators, many of whom opposed his decision to run.40

After the election, de Lugo returned home to St. Croix and remained outside the public spotlight, claiming he was relieved to be “a private citizen” for the first time in two decades.41 However, in 1980, citing “broad, grass-roots, bipartisan support,” de Lugo announced he would run against Republican Territorial Delegate Mel Evans, the former Virgin Islands governor who had won de Lugo’s vacant congressional seat in 1978. De Lugo criticized Evans’s lack of bipartisanship, which he noted had alienated the Virgin Islands supporters de Lugo had lined up during his House service. Evans’s party affiliation put the Virgin Islands “solidly in the Republican corner,” in opposition to the Democratic majority, de Lugo observed, “When the crunch comes, the Democratic leadership can’t count on him.”42 Particularly damaging was Evans’s vote in the Interior Committee against an environmental protection bill; its failure essentially opened the Alaskan wilderness to oil exploration in 1979. Virgin Islands voters, most of whom supported environmental protection, were angered. De Lugo described the vote as “a major blunder.” “All the Virgin Islands’ friends wanted that bill,” de Lugo said. “He voted against every ally he needs to get money for the territory.”43 De Lugo compared his congressional record to Evans’s, noting that federal funds for the Virgin Islands had diminished during Evans’s term. “When I was there, whenever we got money authorized, we got every penny appropriated,” de Lugo noted. “It was taken for granted.”44 De Lugo defeated Evans in his closest election ever, with a narrow 53 percent of the vote. (He won his subsequent bids for Congress by comfortable margins.) De Lugo returned to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and also picked up assignments on the Post Office and Civil Service and the Public Works and Transportation Committees. He later served on the Education and Labor Committee and on the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.45

Among de Lugo’s first initiatives after returning to Washington was a bill on immigration that attempted to ease the resentment of many native Virgin Islanders toward a wave of Greater Caribbean immigrants. During the 1960s and 1970s, “down island” immigration from other Caribbean nations and territories increased dramatically as laborers moved to the Virgin Islands during the high tourist season to work in the hospitality industry; the islands’ population grew 188 percent from 1960 to 1975.46 These workers arrived under the H-2 provision of the 1954 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which permitted temporary residence.47 Over the next two decades, as the islands became more dependent on foreign labor, Congress and the Department of Labor allowed family members to accompany alien workers. Schools, housing and welfare and health care services were overburdened by the surge in population, and the racial makeup of the labor force which was primarily black, increased tensions.48 In 1976 de Lugo proposed an immigration adjustment act that would provide H-2 provision aliens a fast track to citizenship, but the Gerald R. Ford administration blocked the legislation.49 In 1981 de Lugo pushed through the Virgin Islands Nonimmigrants Alien Adjustment Act, which became law on September 30, 1982. The bill addressed the issue of illegal immigration by ending the temporary worker program, except for temporary workers who performed at the annual carnival; by putting legal aliens who had resided in the Virgin Islands since June 30, 1975, on the path to citizenship; and by creating a task force composed of the governor of the Virgin Islands and six federal Cabinet officers to address the burdens caused by the addition of so many new citizens.50 “The people of the Virgin Islands should be proud today,” de Lugo noted just before the bill passed the House. Referring to Virgin Islanders’ decade-long struggle with immigration issues, he continued, “For this bill is an honorable and equitable solution to a very difficult and long-standing problem. It tugged at their conscience. They wrestled with it publicly and privately. And, in the end reached this compromise solution which is uniquely ours—a product of our community for our community.”51

De Lugo also initially supported President Ronald W. Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative, which called for eliminating taxes on goods from foreign countries in the Caribbean Sea.52 However, he expressed concern about the advantage this agreement would give foreign competitors in the rum industry. “I simply cannot overemphasize the critical significance of the rum industry to the economic well-being of the U.S. citizens in the Virgin Islands,” de Lugo told the House Committee on Ways and Means during a hearing. He noted that an excise tax on rum shipped to the mainland United States was the largest single source (18 percent) of the territorial government’s revenue and that the rum industry employed numerous farmers and manufacturers. Eliminating duties on other Caribbean nations’ rum exports would undercut the price of the taxed Virgin Islands product.53 Though he preferred to abolish rum’s favorable status, de Lugo admitted “a compromise is more realistic” and attempted to add to the initiative an amendment that set a quota for duty-free rum.54 “I think it is great that the president has said the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico must be enhanced by the policy towards the Caribbean Basin,” he told the committee. “However, let’s be realistic. No one looking at this legislation can say that the position of the flag territories is enhanced.”55 The amendment failed, 226 to 171. Most of its opponents felt the rum industry in the Caribbean territories was overly subsidized.56 De Lugo continued to pursue the issue as debate on the legislation dragged into the 98th Congress (1983–1985). The final legislation, passed on July 28, 1983, included specific provisions inserted by the Senate to protect Virgin Islands rum.57

On September 18, 1989, Hurricane Hugo slammed into the Virgin Islands, crossing directly over St. Croix and inflicting catastrophic destruction. Most Virgin Islanders had no utilities, businesses were closed, and the airport on St. Croix was destroyed. Ninety percent of the buildings on St. Croix sustained major damage. Five people in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were killed, and infrastructure repair costs for both territories exceeded $1 billion.58 “[It is] beyond belief,” de Lugo told the Washington Post after touring St. Croix, having arrived with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) crews on September 19. “The only thing you can liken it to is a war zone.”59 De Lugo’s congressional office employed five staff members and five volunteers to answer the phone calls flooding his office.60 Responding to reports of looting and threats to stranded tourists, 1,100 National Guardsmen arrived on the island a few days later.61 De Lugo coordinated the Virgin Islands Hurricane Relief Fund, initially praising the “Herculean efforts by FEMA” to aid St. Croix’s recovery.62 However, he eventually criticized the relief agency’s slow progress, noting in an open letter to his colleagues that 2,700 homes still lacked temporary cover more than a month after the storm.63 The following November, de Lugo introduced the Hurricane Hugo Emergency Relief Act, which increased federal spending ceilings on road repair and flood control projects and permitted the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee reconstruction on the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico. The legislation passed by voice vote on November 17.64

De Lugo’s seven terms in Congress during his second period of service, coupled with his three previous terms, made him the dean of the Territorial Delegates when Delegate Won Pat retired in 1985. Moreover, his long service on the Territorial and Insular Affairs Subcommittee on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee allowed him to take the helm of that subcommittee in 1987, and he held that position until he left the House.65 As chairman, de Lugo oversaw the political status and the budget for the Virgin Islands as well as those for all the other U.S. territories, thus enjoying a greater role shaping policy.

As subcommittee chairman, he was deeply involved in Palau’s rocky path toward independence. An archipelago in the South Pacific that was captured from the Japanese during World War II, Palau had been a United Nations trust territory administered by the United States. In 1986, at the behest of President Reagan’s administration, Congress passed the Compact of Free Association, which sought limited autonomy for Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands and provided for them, should they ratify the legislation.66 However, de Lugo, then chairman of the Subcommittee on Territorial and Insular Affairs, sought to temporarily block Palau’s ratification of the compact, citing corruption and bureaucratic problems that needed to be resolved before the island’s independence could be considered. He asked the General Accounting Office to investigate Palau’s finances and rumors of scandal. In an attempt to address these problems, on June 23, 1988, de Lugo introduced H.J. Res. 597, which provided aid and loans to Palau while requiring it to retain a special prosecutor and a public auditor to investigate corruption.67

De Lugo’s legislation met with resistance among his congressional colleagues. Senator Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Jim Leach of Iowa, the Ranking Republican Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, both proposed alternative legislation allowing Palauans greater independence in solving their economic and political difficulties. With both houses at an impasse, there was last-minute wrangling before the 100th Congress (1987–1989) adjourned on October 21, 1988. House supporters of the compromise provision exerted considerable pressure on de Lugo to accept Johnston’s bill in exchange for the reconsideration of some of his provisions in 1989. Leach counted aloud as the minutes ticked off on his watch while he and others crowded around de Lugo on the House Floor during the final vote scheduled for the Congress, on an omnibus drug bill. By the time de Lugo accepted the compromise, the time had already expired. A compromise measure hammered out by de Lugo and Johnston passed the House in the final moments of the first session of the 101st Congress (1989–1991) at 2:40 a.m. on November 22, 1989. The measure granted Palau its independence and $478 million over 15 years while allowing the United States to maintain some military rights should Palauans accept the measure in a referendum. However, in February 1990 the vote fell short of the 75 percent minimum required by the Palauan constitution.68

In 1994 de Lugo retired from politics, returning to the Virgin Islands. Upon his departure from the House, other Delegates expressed their appreciation on the floor. Calling de Lugo “my greatest ally in Congress on political status issues,” Territorial Delegate Robert Underwood of Guam said, “Few political leaders in the U.S. territories can claim the record of accomplishment of Ron de Lugo. Fewer still can boast of friends stretching from the far flung reaches of the Caribbean to the Pacific.”69 In 2001 the House passed legislation sponsored by Territorial Delegate Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands to name a federal building in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, after de Lugo.70 “All of politics is not sweet,” de Lugo noted at the Ron de Lugo Federal Building’s dedication in 2003. “It is a mixture of sweetness and, to do it well, pain.” Asked if he would return to politics, he responded, “I ain’t running for a thing.”71

Ron de Lugo died on July 14, 2020, in Miami, Florida.72


1Congressional Record, House, 107th Cong., 1st sess. (21 May 2001): H2342.

2“De Lugo Sees Election as Popular Mandate,” 14 November 1972, Virgin Island Daily News.

3See, for example, “Mammoth Variety Show to Be Staged at Center,” 16 January 1952, Virgin Island Daily News: 1; “Two Honored at Testimonial Dinners,” 13 February 1952, Virgin Island Daily News: 1.

4Leon Mawson, “Island Carnival,” 24 August 1952, New York Times: X19; “Carnival Spotlight,” 21 March 1953, Virgin Island Daily News; “The Carnival,” 28 March 1953, Virgin Island Daily News.

5Congressional Directory, 93rd Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973): 203. The de Lugo family name appears in the photo captions for the following articles: “Supervisor of Elections Says Budget Unrealistic,” 22 May 1972, Virgin Island Daily News: 1; No Title, 22 June 1973, Virgin Island Daily News: 6.

6“Virginia Crash Kills Son of Washington Rep.,” 21 March 1972, Virgin Island Daily News: 9.

7In 1954 Congress passed the Revised Organic Act, allowing the Virgin Islands to elect its own legislature, an 11-member body of senators. With a near monopoly in the legislature, Virgin Islands Democrats split on factional lines into the Unity Democrats (Unicrats), previously a separate Unity Party, and the Donkey Democrats (Donkeycrats), sometimes called the Mortar and Pestle faction. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, both sides fought for control over the legislature. De Lugo initially allied with the Donkeycrats, becoming the group’s de facto leader, but later sided with the Unicrats. The two factions merged in the mid-1960s. A political history of the Virgin Islands is available in William W. Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands: A History of Human Rights and Wrongs (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1983). For the development of political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands, see Richard E. Sharpless, “Virgin Islands of the United States” in Robert J. Alexander, ed., Political Parties of the Americas, vol. 2 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982): 743–749.

8“De Lugo to Run for Delegate to Congress,” 23 May 1972, Virgin Island Daily News: 1.

9“Mercer, de Lugo Vie on Democratic Slate,” 3 June 1972, Virgin Island Daily News.

10See, for example, “Charges Washington Rep Neglects His Job,” 20 June 1972, Virgin Island Daily News; “Campaign Roundup,” 3 July 1972, Virgin Island Daily News; “Campaign Roundup,” 10 July 1972, Virgin Island Daily News.

11“De Lugo Overwhelms Demo Opponent; King, Roebuck Top,” 13 July 1972, Virgin Island Daily News.

12Appealing principally to the poorer, black voters, the Independent Citizens Movement emerged from the Democratic Party in the late 1960s. The party’s creation was a reaction to growing racial and class tensions on the islands during a period of industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s; see Sharpless, “Virgin Islands of the United States”: 746–747, 748.

13The Republican Party had a small presence in the Virgin Islands from 1954 until the 1970s, when physician Melvin Evans became its first popularly elected governor. See Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands: 266; Sharpless, “Virgin Islands of the United States”: 746, 749.

14“De Lugo Sees Election as Popular Mandate.”

15The 208 to 206 vote was close because the package of rules contained controversial clauses intended to fast track legislation. Minority Leader Gerald Ford of Michigan noted that the Republicans did not object to the Territorial Delegates’ having the right to vote in committee. See Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 1st sess. (3 January 1973): 17, 18, 26. For more information on Burton’s role in advocating congressional reform, see Julian Zelizer, On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and Its Consequences, 1948–2000 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

16De Lugo, Won Pat, District of Columbia Delegate Walter Fauntroy, and Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Jaime Benítez all caucused with the Democrats in the 93rd Congress.

17Garrison Nelson, Committees in the U.S. Congress, 1947–1992, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1994): 226.

18The Virgin Island Daily News reported that de Lugo also sought to abolish the Electoral College, calling the organization “archaic, cumbersome, and undemocratic,” and claimed there was “strong sentiment” for its elimination. No other sources mention de Lugo’s desire to abolish the Electoral College. See “Delegates Broaden Efforts for V.I. Vote,” 10 January 1973, Virgin Island Daily News: 6, 21.

19Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 1st sess. (5 February 1973): 3232.

20Congressional Record, Index, 93rd Cong., 1st sess.: 2227; “Black House Members Back V.I. for Vote,” 9 March 1973, Virgin Island Daily News: 3; see Table 17, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, “General Population Characteristics, Virgin Islands of the United States: 1980 Census of Population,” (accessed 10 September 2009): 55–57. De Lugo renewed his request for a presidential vote for the insular territories in the 99th and 100th Congresses (1985–1989). Both bills were unsuccessful (99th Cong., 1st sess., H.J. Res. 23; 100th Cong., 1st sess., H.J. Res. 217).

21Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 1st sess. (10 May 1973): 15270.

22Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 2nd sess. (7 May 1974): 13438.

23Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong., 1st sess. (9 September 1975): 28038–28039; Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong., 1st sess. (6 October 1975): 31858; Hearing before the House Subcommittee on Territorial and Insular Affairs, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Constitution for the Virgin Islands and Constitution for Guam, 94th Cong., 1st sess. (17 September 1975): 6–12.

24Sharpless, “Virgin Islands of the United States”: 746. The U.S. Virgin Islands has held five constitutional conventions. The most recent, in 2007, completed a draft in June 2009. Governor John DeJongh, Jr., forwarded the proposed constitution to President Barack Obama on December 31, 2009, for approval. See Aldeth Lewin, “Governor Ordered to Send Constitution Draft to the President,” 29 December 2009, Virgin Island Daily News.

25Steven Maguire, “Federal Taxes and the U.S. Possessions: An Overview,” 19 May 2008, Rep. RL32708, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.: 5–7; Arnold H. Leibowitz, Defining Status: A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1989): 288.

26Leibowitz, Defining Status: 288–295.

27Ibid., 288–295; Congressional Record, House, 94th Cong., 2nd sess. (10 August 1976): 26759.

28Hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Assistance, Committee on Finance, Public Assistance Amendments of 1977, 95th Cong., 1st sess. (12, 18, 19, 20 July 1977): 180.

29Quoted in Hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Assistance, Committee on Finance, Public Assistance Amendments of 1977, 95th Cong., 1st sess. (12, 18, 19, 20 July 1977): 180; Hearing before the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Increase Medicaid Assistance to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam, 95th Cong., 1st sess. (8 September 1977): 53–54. The two hearings contain different dates for the Health, Education, and Welfare report referenced by de Lugo. The correct date is listed in the September 8 hearing.

30“Finance Committee Shapes a Welfare Bill.” CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Almanac Online Edition, cqal77-1203395, (accessed 14 January 2010).

31Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, 93rd Cong., 1st sess. (12 March 1973): 7381–7382.

32Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 2nd sess. (18 March 1974): 6956; Hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Territories and Insular Affairs, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Submerged Lands Legislation Affecting Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, 93rd Cong., 2nd sess. (19 June 1974): 22.

33Congressional Record, House, 93rd Cong., 1st sess. (1 May 1973): 3232.

34Munroe, “Report from Washington,” 28 January 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 6.

35“Exuding Confidence,” 5 August 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 6.

36Penny Feuerzeig, “Delegate Sees Money in Islands by Next Summer,” 8 August 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 1; “De Lugo Assails Luis on Crime,” 24 August 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 5.

37Penny Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Pushing Luis on Alien Bill,” 2 May 1978, Virgin Island Daily News; “De Lugo Criticizes Luis over Silence on Alien Bill,” 5 May 1978, Virgin Island Daily News; “Delegate Asks Luis for Details on Bill,” 10 May 1978, Virgin Island Daily News.

38See, for example, “Luis Sets Conditions for Debate with de Lugo,” 11 October 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 3; “Claims Luis Directed Probe,” 27 October 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 8; Penny Feuerzeig, “Investigator Silent on Leaflet Probe Results,” 3 November 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 3; Penny Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Going to Court on Spoiled Ballot Issue,” 4 November 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 1.

39Jere Maupin, “Theories on Election Rampant,” 9 November 1978, Virgin Island Daily News: 1.

40Fred Clarke, “Virgin Island Democrats Will Never Be ‘Family,’” 16 June 1980, Virgin Island Daily News: 10.

41“There’s No Place Like Home,” 27 January 1979, Virgin Island Daily News: 6; Penny Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Considering Delegate Bid,” 21 March 1980, Virgin Island Daily News: 3.

42Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Considering Delegate Bid”; Penny Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Plans to Campaign for Delegate Evans’ Seat,” 13 June 1980, Virgin Island Daily News: 3.

43Penny Feuerzeig, “Evans’ Vote Rouses Colleagues’ Ire,” 3 March 1979, Virgin Island Daily News: 3.

44Feuerzeig, “De Lugo Plans to Campaign for Delegate Evans’ Seat.”

45Nelson, Committees in the U.S. Congress, 1947–1992, vol. 2: 226.

46Leibowitz, Defining Status: 278.

47Section 101 (a) (15) (H) (ii) of the act was known as the H-2 provision; see Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands: 289.

48See Leibowitz, Defining Status: 278–282; and Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands: 287–292. The situation resulted in increased crime. The most infamous crime was the Fountain Valley Massacre, in which five black Crucians from prominent families who were angry about changes resulting from increased tourism and immigration robbed and murdered eight tourists and hotel workers, most of them white, at the Fountain Valley Golf Course, in broad daylight on September 6, 1972. The attackers’ calm demeanor in these racially motivated killings made international headlines. See Leibowitz, Defining Status: 282n; and Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands: 311–321.

49Leibowitz, Defining Status: 283n.

50Ibid., 283–284.

51Congressional Record, House, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. (8 September 1982): 22858.

52For more information, see “Caribbean Trade Plan.” CQ Press Library, CQ Almanac Online Edition, cqal82-1163576, (accessed 27 April 2009).

53Hearing before the House Subcommittee on Trade, Committee on Ways and Means, Caribbean Basin Initiative, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. (23 March 1982): 67.


55Ibid., 66; Jane Seaberry, “Caribbean Policy Hit at Hearings,” 24 March 1982, Washington Post: D9.

56Congressional Record, House, 97th Cong., 2nd sess. (17 December 1982): 31930–31931.

57Hearing before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Caribbean Basin Initiative, 98th Cong., 1st sess. (10 June 1983): 15; “Caribbean Trade Plan,” CQ Almanac 1983.

58National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Hurricane History: Hurricane Hugo 1989,” (accessed 11 September 2009).

59Adela Gooch, “U.S. Troops Arrive on Ravaged Island,” 22 September 1989, Washington Post: A1.

60Molly Sinclair, “Area Residents Still Await Word on Friends and Relatives in Virgin Islands,” 23 September 1989, Washington Post: A13.

61Gooch, “U.S. Troops Arrive on Ravaged Island”; Jeffrey Schmalz, “3 Weeks after Storm, St. Croix Still Needs Troops,” 9 October 1989, New York Times: A1. Though he admitted that some looting took place, de Lugo staunchly defended the island’s reputation, claiming that media reports of violence were overblown and stressing the severity of the situation following the storm. “If you have a hurricane on the mainland … help comes from across the State line,” de Lugo noted. “The little island of St. Croix … was completely cut off for at least 48 hours.” Congressional Record, House, 101st Cong., 1st sess. (4 October 1989): 23295.

62Remar Sutton, “In Hugo’s Wake: A Move Is Afoot for the V.I. Events,” 25 September 1989, Washington Post: B5; Congressional Record, House, 101st Cong., 1st sess. (17 October 1989): 24768.

63Michael Wines, “U.S. Relief Agency Seeks Relief from Criticism,” 25 October 1989, New York Times: A29.

64Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, 101st Cong., 1st sess. (7 November 1989): 27823. The bill was originally entitled “The Hurricane Hugo Disaster Reconstruction Bill” but was later re-titled by amendment. See Congressional Record, House, 101st Cong., 1st sess. (17 November 1989): 29993–29996.

65The name of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs was changed to the Committee on Natural Resources in the 103rd Congress (1993–1995).

66The legislation was originally introduced in 1983. Both the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands ratified the Compact of Free Association and were granted independence in 1986. See “Micronesia Compact,” CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Almanac Online Edition, cqal85-1147328, (accessed 3 September 2009); “Palau Independence Dispute,” CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Almanac Online Edition, cqal88-1142501, (accessed 27 April 2009).

67“Palau Independence Dispute.” CQ Almanac 1988. The aid included $30 million and an additional $25 million in loans for payment to creditors of a bankrupt power company with a plant in Palau.

68“Palauans Reject Charter on Autonomy.” CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Almanac Online Edition, cqal90-1118789, (accessed 30 April 2009).

69Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, 103rd Congress, 2nd sess. (6 October 1994).

70P.L. 107-175, 116 Stat. 576.

71Jeremy W. Peters, “Federal Building Christened in Honor of de Lugo,” 31 May 2003, Virgin Island Daily News.

72Stephen Cheslik, "Ron de Lugo, V.I. Delegate to Congress, Dies," 14 July 2020, Virgin Islands Daily News,

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

The Virgin Islands Public Libraries
Territorial Archives

St. Thomas and St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Papers: Dates and amounts unknown.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Ron de Lugo" in Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of the Historian and the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2013.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Education and Labor
  • House Committee - Interior and Insular Affairs
    • Insular and International Affairs - Chair
  • House Committee - Merchant Marine and Fisheries
  • House Committee - Natural Resources
    • Insular and International Affairs - Chair
  • House Committee - Post Office and Civil Service
  • House Committee - Public Works and Transportation
  • House Committee - Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control
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