|Melquíades Rafael "Mel" Martínez (born October 23, 1946) is currently the junior United States Senator from Florida and served as General Chairman of the Republican Party from November, 2006 until October 19, 2007. Previously, Martinez served as the 12th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush. Martinez is a Cuban-American and Catholic. He announced he was resigning as Chairman of the Republican National Committee on October 19, 2007 .|
Martinez resigned his cabinet post on December 12, 2003 to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida being vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Bob Graham. Martinez secured the Republican nomination and narrowly defeated the Democratic nominee, Betty Castor. His election made him the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. Furthermore, he and Ken Salazar are the first Hispanic U.S. Senators since 1977. They were joined by Bob Menendez in January 2006.
Martinez was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba, to Gladys V. Ruiz and Melquiades C. Martinez. He came to the United States in 1962 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Peter Pan, which brought into the U.S. more than 14,000 children. Catholic charitable groups provided Martinez a temporary home at two youth facilities. At the time Martinez was alone and spoke virtually no English. He subsequently lived with two foster families, and in 1966 was reunited with his family in Orlando.
Martinez received his Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law in 1973. He began his legal career working at the firm Wooten Honeywell, et. al. , where he became a partner and worked at for more than a decade. During his 25 years of law practice in Orlando, he was involved in various civic organizations. He served as Vice-President of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Orlando Diocese.
In 1994, Martinez ran for Lieutenant Governor of Florida. He teamed up with former Family Research Council President Ken Connor, who was the gubernatorial candidate. The Connor/Martinez ticket was defeated in the Republican primary, finishing fifth with 83,945 votes, or 9.31% of the vote.
Before becoming Secretary of HUD, Martinez served on the Governor's Growth Management Study Commission. He previously served as President of the Orlando Utilities Commission, on the board of directors of a community bank, and as Chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority.
Serving as co-chairman of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential election campaign in Florida, Martinez was a leading fundraiser. He was one of the 25 electors from Florida, who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
Senator Mel Martinez chats with U.S. President George W. Bush in the Center Hall of the White House during celebration of the Cinco de Mayo. The official portrait of former First Lady Betty Ford can be seen on the wall.
|MELQUIADES RAFAEL MARTINEZ RUIZ|
RECIPIENT OF THE
2006 TUITIO FIDEI PRIZE
The Honorable Melquiades Rafael Martínez Ruíz was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba. He came to the United States in 1962 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Pedro Pan, which brought into the U.S. more than 14,000 children from Cuba. Catholic charitable groups provided the future Senator a temporary home at two youth facilities. At the time, Senator Martínez was alone and spoke virtually no English. He subsequently lived with two foster families, and in 1966 was reunited with his family in Orlando, Florida, where he has resided since.
Senator Martínez attended Bishop Moore High School in Orlando on scholarship. After graduation from high school, he attended Florida State University for both undergrad and graduate studies, and is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law where he earned a Juris Doctor in 1973. He began his legal career working at the firm Wooten Honeywell, et. al., where he became a partner and worked for more than a decade. During his 25 years of law practice in Orlando, he was involved in various civic organizations, including serving as Vice-President of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Orlando Diocese. He previously served as President of the Orlando Utilities Commission and on the board of directors of a community bank.
The Senator began his career in public service as Chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority. He was subsequently elected Chairman of Orange County, Florida. He also served on the Governor's Growth Management Study Commission. Senator Martínez served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush where he helped further the goals of an ‘ownership society’ by promoting home-ownership for America’s low-income workers.
Senator Martínez was sworn in as Florida’s thirty-third United States Senator on January 4, 2005, and took his place in the history books as the first Cuban-American to serve in the United States Senate. While serving in the Senate, he has worked on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Banking, Aging, and Energy and Natural Resources committees, allowing him to play an integral role on critical issues facing Florida and the nation. He continues to be active in Cuba policy and a strong advocate of democratic reforms across the Western Hemisphere, and has always promoted a culture of life in his legislative and public pronouncements. He has served as General Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Senator Martínez and his wife Kitty have three children (Lauren, John and Andrew) and two grandchildren. He is the brother of Rafael E. Martínez. He is a Knight of Malta ascribed to the Cuban Association.
November 19, 2007
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