RANGEL, IRMA LERMA (1931 ~ 2003). Irma Lerma Rangel, first Mexican American female legislator, was born on May 15, 1931, in the small South Texas town of Kingsville to Herminia L. Rangel and P.M. Rangel. At an early age, she developed a strong sense of compassion while realizing that some barriers to success must be broken. She also learned that an education, combined with hard work, usually led to success. Rangel graduated from Texas A&I University, now Texas A&M - Kingsville, and became a teacher. After teaching in South Texas, Venezuela and California, she elected to further her education into the next phase of her life.
In a time when a Hispanic woman with a college degree was rare, Rangel chose to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an attorney. In 1969, her dream became a reality when she received her Juris Doctorate from St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio. She experienced a successful legal career as an assistant district attorney and private practitioner.
In 1976, Rangel became the first Mexican American woman elected to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. She immediately focused her efforts upon minority and educational issues. Her continued commitment to public service provided many opportunities for others to follow. Rangel served as the first female Mexican American committee chair of the House Higher Education Committee and the first, and only, woman to lead the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. Her legislative record reflects a sincere commitment and dedication that has left an indelible mark on the history of this great state.
Today, the Texas Legislature is comprised of fourteen minority woman legislators. During the 2001 Legislature, Representative Rangel assisted in passing a bill which created the first professional school in South Texas-a School of Pharmacy at Texas A&M - Kingsville. This year, Representative Rangel's name was associated, in part, to a legislative leadership program aimed at encouraging the involvement of young Hispanics in the Texas political process. This program provides undergraduate and graduate students from across Texas with an opportunity to gain first-hand experience by working in the Texas House of Representatives. By ensuring educational opportunities for all Texas children, her efforts have helped to create a Texas workforce that is reflective of the diversity of our state while providing additional opportunities to those students willing to work hard to achieve success. One such opportunity resulted from the passage of House Bill 588 in 1997. This landmark legislation requires state colleges and universities to automatically admit all students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
Representative Rangel passed away Tuesday, March 18, 2003, after an arduous and valiant battle with cancer. She was buried in the Texas State Cemetery three days later.
Information taken from obituary, Austin American-Statesman, Thursday, March 20, 2003.