HARLINGEN, Texas – After 50 years of public service, 35 of them in the Texas Legislature, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., has announced his retirement.

In the company of family, friends and dignitaries from his across his district and Austin, Sen. Lucio, D-Brownsville, broke the news at his Harlingen district office.

“Today I announced my retirement from the Texas Senate at the end of my current term,” Lucio said. “I am grateful for every person who has ever supported us, challenged us, and most importantly, fought alongside me for the benefit of Senate District 27. My office remains committed to continuing to serve our constituents over the next year.”

Lucio added: “Serving in the Texas Legislature has been the greatest honor of my life — thank you to my community for the opportunity.”

Lucio is currently the third longest serving lawmaker in the Texas Senate. In addition to serving for 18 legislative sessions in Austin, Lucio was also a Cameron County Treasurer and a Cameron County Commissioner. Before this he was a teacher in Brownsville. 

State Rep. Eddie Lucio III

State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, the senator’s son, introduced Sen. Lucio at the news conference. Rep. Lucio recently announced he would not be running for re-election.

“Congratulations, Dad, on 35 years of work in the Texas Legislature. I had a front row seat and watched you serve with great passion,” Rep. Lucio said. “All good things must come to an end. I am proud of you.”

Rep. Lucio said his father worked on issues that he was passionate about and which helped many people.

“I hope you find the same joy in retirement that you had while serving in office. It is an honor to be your son and it was a tremendous privilege to have been your colleague.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

There were dozens of tributes to Sen. Lucio soon after the news broke. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave the senator high marks.

“Since 1991, Eddie Lucio, Jr. has been a true statesman as a Senator and leader for the Rio Grande Valley and for Texas. He was pro-business and pro-education and constantly worked to improve the economic and educational opportunities for everyone in the Valley,” Patrick said.

“What I admire most is his deep and abiding faith. He is a true man of God. His brave defense of innocent life in the womb, often standing up to criticism from his own party, was a testament to his faith. He has sent almost-daily prayers to me for most of our 14-year friendship.”

Patrick said Lucio was a man of courage.

“He has always had the courage to put the interests of his district over those of his party and above national politics. His wisdom, experience and tremendous legislative ability will be sorely missed during future legislative sessions,” Patrick said.

“Eddie helped me become a better Senator and Lt. Governor, and a better person. I have always appreciated his excellent sense of leadership and larger-than-life personality.”

Patrick added: “The latest poll shows 58 percent of Texas Hispanics support the Heartbeat Bill. Sen. Lucio’s voters also support family and faith issues. I hope the new Senator from his district will have the courage to continue Sen. Lucio’s legacy. Sen. Lucio leaves big shoes to fill. The bar will be set very high for his successor.”

State. Sen. Juan Hinojosa

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen wrote a fulsome tribute.

“Senator Eddie Lucio has dedicated his life to public service. I have worked alongside him in the Texas Senate for nearly two decades. As a longtime vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee and most recently as vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Lucio has been a strong voice for the people of his district and the Rio Grande Valley.”

Hinojosa said that as a legislator, Sen. Lucio worked to improve the public education system in Texas.

“He led the charge in ensuring our children with disabilities had the resources and support they needed to be successful in school. He fought for the historic funding for our public schools that led to pay raises for teachers and school employees. Senator Lucio has also been a longtime advocate for expanding higher education opportunities in South Texas including playing a key role in the creation of UTRGV and the School of Medicine,” Hinojosa said.

For many years, Lucio chaired various versions of the Senate international relations panel, as Hinojosa recalled.

“As chairman of the Senate International Relations and Trade Committee and later chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Senator Lucio was a leader in addressing issues with colonias in South Texas. He authored and passed a proposed constitutional amendment in 2007 that voters approved authorizing the issuance of $250 million in bonds to help meet the water and wastewater infrastructure needs of economically distressed areas. In 2019, Senator Lucio again led the way to get the voters to approve another $200 million in bonds to support communities that otherwise could not afford to secure access to safe drinking water,” Hinojosa pointed out.

The McAllen Democrat added: “I congratulate Senator Lucio on his successful legislative career. We have worked together on many important projects for South Texas. We are known in the Capitol and in the Valley as the one-two punch. His passion will be missed in the Senate but his accomplishments and legislative successes will have a lasting impact in the lives of many Texans. I wish Senator Lucio a happy and healthy retirement and much success in his future endeavors.”

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

Lucio served two terms in the Texas House before being elected to the Texas Senate. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar shared an apartment with him in Austin when they were both House members.

“Eddie Lucio is a good man that believes in God, family and country. We began together as state representatives and were roommates the first session. Eddie, thank you for your great service,” Cuellar told Ron Whitlock Reports.

John Henneberger

John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, worked with Sen. Lucio on major colonia housing legislation in the 1990s. Henneberger told the Rio Grande Guardian: “Senator Lucio has been extraordinarily committed to affordable housing for the poor. There is no one in the Texas Senate who cared more about and fought for the massive housing needs of poor families living in colonias. With Senator Lucio’s retirement, Texans most in need of housing assistance are losing their greatest champion.”

Bobby Farris

Bobby Farris, vice-chairman of Texas Regional Bank, offered this tribute: “Senator Lucio will be missed. He was a great champion of education and worked very well with both sides of the aisle.”

State Rep. Ryan Guillen

State Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City gave a glowing tribute also.

“South Texas is loosing a giant in the legislature. Looking back on his over three decades of leadership, Senator Lucio has certainly left an indelible mark on South Texas,” Guillen told Ron Whitlock Reports

Manny Vela

Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist Health System, was at the retirement announcement. He told Ron Whitlock Reports: “I want to personally thank Senator Lucio for his years of public service, especially his advocacy for children with special needs. He was brought to tears today, and brought me to tears, talking about a family he recently met at the capitol who were in Austin seeking his support for their autistic child. It was a special moment because I went to Austin almost two decades ago seeking support for my autistic son and he became the champion for children with special needs and continues to champion the cause till this day. May God bless him and his family always.”

Judge Richard Cortez

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez told Ron Whitlock Reports: “Senator Lucio was a tremendous advocate for the Rio Grande Valley and a great public servant for many years. I wish him well in his next chapter of his life. He will be missed.”

Cortez later issued this statement to the public: “The significance of the retirement of Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. cannot be overstated. He has been a public servant for more than 50 years and has ably served in the Texas Senate for more than 30 years. He has been a relentless advocate of the Rio Grande Valley and a terrific friend of Hidalgo County. I congratulate him on his retirement and I wish him well in this new chapter of his life. Whatever he chooses to do next, I know it will involve the best interests of South Texas.”

Commissioner Julian Alvarez

Julian Alvarez, labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission, told Ron Whitlock Reports: “I am honored to have worked with Senator Lucio. He is a true leader and advocate for not only the Rio Grande Valley, but the entire great state of Texas.  During his time as a public servant, Senator Lucio has transformed the way we think, educate and train our future workforce for the region. He has left a legacy that will be hard to match. Thank you sir.”

Norma Ramirez

Norma Ramirez, chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, told the Rio Grande Guardian: “State Senator Eddie Lucio’s retirement is a huge loss, not only for his constituents in the Rio Grande Valley, but the entire state of Texas. For the last 30 years, Senator Lucio fought for working men and women. His commitment to public education, health care, and job creation made the Rio Grande Valley a better place to live and work. We will miss his dedication in the Texas Senate. We look forward to the emergence of a new generation of leadership who will have big shoes to fill.”

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian will add more tributes to this story as they come in. To send a comment, contact Ron Whitlock at: (956) 778-7903. Or an email to: [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a three-part series on the retirement of state Sen. Eddie Lucio. Part Two will be featured in our weekend edition.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., with his former chief of staff, Paul Cowen. The photo was taken at Sen. Lucio’s retirement announcement event by Rio Grande Guardian reporter Steve Taylor.

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