FEATURED: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, poses in this campaign image on Monday, May 5, 2020. Lucio, who retired as of Monday, January 9, 2023, was a featured speaker during the Tuesday, January 17, 2023 inauguration in Austin of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.
Photograph Courtesy SEN. EDDIE LUCIO FACEBOOK
Retired Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, praises Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for transforming “a culture shadowed by death into a culture illuminated by life” during Patrick inauguration
Recently retired Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, may have seen his last day in office on Monday, January 9, 2023 as the third-longest serving member of the Texas Senate.
But the high-profile role he took a week later during the inauguration of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick showed that the South Texas longtime lawmaker may be gone from elected office, but he will be not be forgotten by the state’s top elected leaders.
Lucio, who announced in late 2021 that he would not seek reelection, was front and center at the podium on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 to help introduce Patrick, a Republican from Houston, during the inauguration ceremonies attended by thousands of supporters for Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.
Lucio especially praised Patrick for the recently-reelected lieutenant governor’s strong Christian faith.
“In his life and his work, he is driven to live by the principle describe above the dais in the Senate chamber: ‘In God We Trust’,” Lucio reflected. “In God we have trusted indeed, and in return, God has blessed us with an outstanding and remarkable leader. I truly cherish his friendship as my brother in Christ.”
A dais or daïs is a raised platform at the front of a room or hall, usually for one or more speakers or honored guests. Historically, the dais was a part of the floor at the end of a medieval hall, raised a step above the rest of the room.
In prepared remarks, which Lucio delivered with Patrick, Abbott, and Speaker of the House Dave Phelan, R-Beaumont a few feet away, the now former Brownsville lawmaker – who served both in the House of Representatives and then in the Texas Senate – focused on Patrick’s religious beliefs.
“When we first met in 2006, our working relationship quickly developed into a friendship that will undoubtedly last a lifetime,” Lucio said of Patrick. “As a newly-elected state senator, his (Patrick) actions made it clear that he was a man of devout faith and great conviction.”
From the beginning, Lucio said he found that Patrick “never shied away from doing the right thing, and always allowed his strong Christian values to serve as a guiding force of his moral compass. The very first legislation he passed in his first session was to put a “In God We Trust” above the (Senate) dais in the Senate Chamber.”
A session is the period during which the Texas Legislature meets. The regular session convenes every odd-numbered year and may last no more than 140 days.
The current 88th Texas Legislature began its regular session on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.
Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
The measure Lucio referred to was Senate Resolution 141 by Patrick, passed by the Texas Senate on Tuesday, January 30, 2007.
In addition to Patrick, Senate Resolution 141 carried as primary authors all three Valley senators – Lucio, Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County.
The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author). The Senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution.
“Filed” is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the Texas Legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.
Senate Resolution 141, as approved by the Senate on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, read accordingly:
“BE IT RESOLVED, By the Senate of the State of Texas, 80th Legislature, That the Senate Committee on Administration is hereby directed to convey to the State Preservation Board the request of the senate that not later than September 1, 2007, the preservation board permanently display, in lettering large enough to be read throughout the senate chamber, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ on a sign or other appropriate device to be placed on the face of the white portion of the portico located over the presiding officer’s podium and beneath the electronic message screen in the senate chamber; and,
“be it further RESOLVED, That the Senate Committee on Administration shall provide any appropriate assistance to the State Preservation Board to carry out the senate’s request in this matter; and,
“be it further RESOLVED, That, until the motto is permanently displayed by the State Preservation Board in the manner described by this resolution, the Senate Committee on Administration shall cause the motto “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed on the electronic message screen at the front of the senate chamber at all times when the chamber is open to the public and the senate is not in session or the electronic message screen is not required for another activity taking place in the chamber.”
Later that session, Lucio recalled, Patrick served as the sponsor of legislation “to place ‘Under God’ in our state pledge as well.”
The Texas Pledge currently is: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”
In 2007, House Bill 1034, authored by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, changed a key passage in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance.
Patrick successfully sponsored House Bill 1034 in the Senate
As sponsor, Patrick was the legislator who guided House Bill 1034 through the Senate once it had been approved by the House of Representatives.
At the time, under Government Code, sec. 3100.101, the pledge of allegiance to the state flag was: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.”’
House Bill 1034 added the words “state under God” immediately after the word “one” in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance.
All members of the Valley state legislative delegation voted for House Bill 1034.
Lucio credited Patrick by noting that “during his (Patrick) tenures, he has championed legislation to protect our liberty, lower our property taxes, bolster our economy, fortify our electric grid, advance our education system, secure our southern border, support our law enforcement officers, advocate for religious freedom, and most significantly, safeguard the lives of the unborn. Under his leadership, Texas has transformed a culture shadowed by death into a culture illuminated by life. In the most crucial times, his caring faith-based approach allowed him to unite members in bipartisan acts of change.”
Soon after Lucio’s remarks, Patrick touched upon his own faith.
“We still love God in this state. Jesus is king,” Patrick said. “I went back and read the Austin American Statesman in 2015 and they said, ‘Most politicians talk about God, he talked about Jesus and his Christianity. He actually put his faith over his party.’ Yeah.
“Of course. I’m proud that Jesus Christ is my savior. I respect all things and all religions and those who don’t believe, but for me, Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third,” the lieutenant governor proclaimed.
According to Lucio’s official biography, as of November 2021:
A leader on education, healthcare and economic development, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas recently honored Lucio with their “Legislative Hero Award” for his achievements benefitting the families of fallen police officers. In 1991, the Rio Grande Valley elected Lucio to the Texas Senate after two successful terms in the Texas House of Representatives.
Prior to serving in the Texas Legislature, Lucio first held office as Cameron County Treasurer at the age of twenty-five, he later served as Cameron County Commissioner.
Lucio has championed healthcare for children with disabilities, equity in public schools, and veterans’ issues. A relentless advocate for the Rio Grande Valley and the ranch lands of the coastal bend, he improved access to higher education to strengthen the South Texas economy.
His legislation authorized the creation of several colleges and universities in Rio Grande Valley including the University of Texas at Brownsville, a legacy institution to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), South Texas College (which now boasts an enrollment of over 30,000 students) and he is heralded as the father of the Regional Academic Health Center, a legacy institution to the UTRGV School of Medicine.
During his tenure as a member of the powerful Finance Committee, Lucio worked to secure state funding for South Texas infrastructure, which contributed to the designation of the first interstates in the Rio Grande Valley.
Lucio is also the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
He played a pivotal role in safeguarding our most precious Texans by passing legislation requiring three-point lap shoulder belts on new school buses, and by expanding access to school nutrition programs as cornerstones of his legislative agenda.
Lucio graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Pan American University (a legacy institution to UTRGV). He became an educator and a coach in the Brownsville Independent School District prior to pursuing public office.
Lucio is married to Herminia “Minnie” Cerda.
They have two children Lynda Anne Cisneros (Carlos), a public school counselor, and Eddie III (Jaime) an attorney, who is serving his fourth term in the Texas House of Representatives.
He is the proud grandfather of “three termites and two princesses,” Carlitos, Alex, Anna, Olivia Rose, and Eddie IV.
Lucio is guided by the values he learned growing up in Brownsville, which were enriched as an educator and cultivated in the corridors of the State Capitol, putting people first and advocating for the hard-working families who are deep in the heart of Texas since 1981.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley volunteers give back on MLK Day of Service
Rakes and shovels in hand, Jay Sánchez, a senior majoring in computer software engineering at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, brought members of his fraternity to volunteer at Restlawn Cemetery in Edinburg on Monday morning, January 16, 2023 in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a vision of a “beloved community.”
Sánchez, President of UTRGV’s Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter, said members of TKE volunteer often – at the food bank, animal shelters, adopt-a-beach cleanups, maintaining a section along a highway, and wherever else they see an opportunity.
However, the cemetery cleanup on this year’s National Day of Service held a special place for Sánchez, as his sister is laid to rest in the adjoining Hillcrest Memorial Park.
“It’s thoughtful that the university is giving this to the loved ones of those who have passed,” said Sánchez, who grew up in Edinburg. “It’s something we can do for the families who can’t come out here to visit and clean the tombstones. They can know they’re resting in a nice space.”
The Restlawn Cemetery site cleanup, organized by the Juneteenth Committee, brought more than 50 volunteers from UTRGV, Village in the Valley (ViVa), and the City of Edinburg Library and Cultural Arts. Restlawn, which sits about 200 feet from Hillcrest Memorial Park and the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery.
It is believed to be the only graveyard in Hidalgo County dedicated for African American burials, according to a Texas Historical Marker onsite.
Volunteers contributed to maintaining the dignity of the space by repainting benches and wooden crosses, cleaning gravestones, and tidying and mulching flower beds.
Among the volunteers were Little Miss McAllen and Ms. South Texas Rose ’22 – Bella Carreón and Trinidad Montes – in pageant sashes and tiaras.
“We give back when we can – however we can – for the community,” said Montes.
On this nationally recognized “day on – not a day off,” the TKE brothers were among more than 100 UTRGV students, staff, and faculty who gave their time to four social causes across the Rio Grande Valley.
Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a National Day of Service in 1994.
UTRGV held its first MLK Day of Service in 2015, with hundreds of volunteers working together on over 40 local projects to strengthen the community and empower individuals. This built on the activities of legacy institutions UT Brownsville – which hosted MLK Day volunteer activities since 2000 – and UTPA, which held its first service day in 2011.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas.
This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island.
UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
Karen Villarreal contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).