Herman Badillo was the first Puerto Rican US congressman (1970-78).
A fixture in New York politics for over forty years, he was also the first Puerto Rican Borough President, Deputy Mayor, City Commissioner, and CUNY Board Chair. At one point Badillo jokingly stated, “I was the first Puerto Rican everything.”
Badillo was always a fighter. He arrived as an orphan from Caguas at age 11, and was raised by his aunt. He worked full-time as a dishwasher, bowling pinsetter and accountant, and attended Brooklyn Law School at night…where he graduated first in his class, at age 24.
Badillo was also a fierce campaigner. He ran city marathons to stay in fighting trim, and he had a homespun secret. Whenever he campaigned in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, he introduced himself as “Herman Badillo,” using the castilian form of his last name (Ba-DEE-yoh). In Italian neighborhoods, his name became Herman Badilio (Ba-DIH-li-oh).
In Jewish neighborhoods he was just Herman.