Remembering Gov. Apodaca…

As the United Press International political editor and state capitol bureau chief for seven years during the 1970s, I covered three governors during that time.

The first was David F. “Lonesome Dave” Cargo, a Republican who was often seen as a loner in his own party and in the state in general. I was only on the job for about six months while he was the governor.

The next governor I reported on for four years was Bruce King, a master politician who was liked by just about everyone. His folksy attitude and unique twang when he spoke made many people believe he was not as sharp as smoother talking political figures. Not so. He had a gift for bringing people together and negotiating things that were right for the long term benefit of the state. And he could remember just about anyone’s name after meeting them just once. He assembled a talented support team and named some impressive people to various leadership positions in his administration. He was also teamed up with the best First Lady I’ve ever known in New Mexico, Alice. In her obituary, the Albuquerque Journal described her as a “sturdy ranch woman” who knew how to connect with people as well as her husband did and made countless friends in all corners of the state.

Jerry Apodaca was the last governor I covered. Sadly, his death was announced last week. He had apparently been suffering from cancer and died at his home in Santa Fe.

Apodaca was one of the youngest governors elected in the state at the time and the first Hispanic governor in the modern history of New Mexico. He was charismatic, approachable, visionary and surrounded himself with a great team of advisors and department heads who were part of new cabinet system to help him govern the state.

Former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca

I first met him when he was elected to the New Mexico Senate from Las Cruces during Bruce King’s first term as governor. I was covering the Senate at the time and we quickly became friends. He would often approach me to talk as I ventured on the floor of the Senate during breaks in the action. He one of several younger outgoing members of the Senate on both sides of the isle who came to be known as the “young turks” and who filled many more leadership roles in state government in coming years.

He was a strong advocate for educational and minority issues. The last time I saw him in person was when he was guest speaker at the annual Martin Luther King breakfast at New Mexico State University in the 1990s. He gave a powerful speech that I recall prompted a standing ovation.

I had two adventures with him during his time as governor. On one, he was promoting tourism in the state and we went on a whitewater rafting trip down the Rio Grande Gorge. It was a spring day when the runoff was high in the river, and the water was really, really cold. I recall him shivering when he took off his soaked shirt, then realized cameras were on him and quickly sucked his mid-40s gut back in.

Another time, I snuck off work mid-week to go skiing and also found him playing hooky on the slopes of Santa Fe Ski Basin. For some reason, one of his ski boots had broken a hinge and I helped him patch it up for the rest of the day with some duct tape we found in the Ski Patrol shed. We rode up the lift several times that day, talking about many different topics.

When the time came for me to accept a transfer to Cheyenne, Wyo., to become state editor for United Press International, Apodaca issued a governor’s proclamation declaring Nov. 26, 1976 as “Pat Lamb Day in New Mexico.” After several years, the ink on his signature had faded away, but a colleague at work in Las Cruces was his cousin and arranged for him to sign it again. It’s still on my wall in my “office” here at home. A photo of it, which is somewhat difficult to read, is attached below:

I’m kind of proud of it…

2 thoughts on “Remembering Gov. Apodaca…

  1. All I can remember about his tenure was the people (probably Republicans) seemed to take some perverse satisfaction in referring to him as, (or asking), Tony Annoy-ya…?


  2. That’s very cool Pat, I’m surprised you never told me about this honor. I noticed that Ernestine Evans signed the proclamation also. Barbara’s aunt is married to “Ernie’s” son so over the years I got to know her.


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