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  Fernandez, Benjamin
NameBenjamin Fernandez
, California , United States
Born February 24, 1925
DiedApril 25, 2000 (75 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedThomas Walker
Jul 25, 2003 11:49am
Infofrom Francisco "Pancho" M. Vega (Michigan)

Benjamin Joseph Fernandez
February 24, 1925 - April 25, 2000

Mr. Hispanic Republican

A Great American !!!

Ben Fernandez leaves a distinguished legacy to his family, to our country, to our system of government, to the Republican Party in general, to the Hispanic population in particular, and to his many, many friends.


On November 29, 1978, Ben Fernandez announced his candidacy for the Republican Party's nomination for President of the United States. As the first American of Hispanic origin to campaign for the Presidency, HE MADE HISTORY!! And, he took many of us along on an unforgettable trip! - - - In the course of the Primaries, he physically campaigned in 40 states; and received up to four percent of the popular vote. When the nomination went to Candidate Reagan, Ben served as one of his national surrogate speakers. In 1981, he was appointed to the Presidential Transition Team. His political credentials were impeccable.

"I met Ben in 1967, in Washington, D. C. At this meeting were Manuel Lujan (NM, and later a Member of Congress, and appointed by President George Bush to be Secretary of the Interior; Fernando Oaxaca (CA, "Benji", and later National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly (RNHA), and a very active supporter of candidate George W. Bush, 1999-2000; Martin Castillo, Esq. (CA, the attorney for the RNHA, and later was the National Chairman of the Committee on Spanish Speaking Affairs; and I, Francisco M. Vega (MI, Historian, organized RNHA Chapters in the Great Lakes states and Missouri; RNHA State Chairman for MI; Michigan State Chairman The Hispanic Finance Committee to Re-Elect the President, 1972; RNHA Midwest Vice Chairman, 1983-1984; RNHA National Committeeman from MI, 1987-1989; and MI Hispanic State Chairman for Senator John McCain, January 2000.

When we left Washington, D.C., these five individuals had formed the "Republican National Hispanic Council", and Ben Fernandez was our first National Chairman. The following year we changed the name to "The Republican National Hispanic Assembly". "

Benjamin Fernandez was living proof that American is the greatest country in the world!! He was born in a railroad boxcar, and then in one generation, was a self-made millionaire and became a viable candidate for President of the United States. IT COULD ONLY HAPPEN IN AMERICA !!!

He was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and he and seven brothers and sisters worked with their immigrant parents in the sugar beet and tomato fields of Michigan and Indiana.

Working from sunup to sundown, the Fernandez family saved every penny so they would not have to go on welfare. It was a hard-working, respectable family, trying to stay together, trying to survive; trying to maintain its dignity and self-respect. THEY MADE IT.

Ben's education was superb. - - - At the end of three years as an enlisted man in the Air Force in WW I I, he arrived at the University of Redlands, Redlands, California, with only $20 and the GI Bill benefits... not enough, so he immediately found a job at the local YMCA, as a dishwasher and a waiter. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics.

Upon graduating, he moved to New York City, where he worked during the day at International General Electric Co., and attended night school at the Graduate School of Business, New York University. As a result of his intense drive, he received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Foreign Trade and Marketing, and completed all of the course work for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Economics, Marketing, Corporate Finance, Foreign Trade and Financial History.

His employer, General Electric, was so impressed by the fact that he completed the four-year course work in only two years, that they recruited him for their Financial Management Training Program in New York City. He was trained at the international and national levels in the fields of marketing, management and finance.

Following his employment and training with General Electric, he was appointed Director of Marketing Research, the O. A. Sutton Corporation, Wichita, Kansas. After three years he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a Consulting Economist, specializing in the organization of savings and loans associations and commercial banks. He was very successful and this is reflected by the fact that between 1960 and 1976, he testified over 500 times under oath before federal and state agencies.

Ben's innovations in business received national acclaim. This included recognition given by the U. S. Department of Commerce for his efforts on behalf of NEDA (National Economic Development Association), a non-profit corporation he founded to foster the free enterprise system among Spanish-speaking Americans. The organization was responsible for approximately $2 billion in loans from the private sector, and the default factor was less than two percent. There were few Americans with his expertise in small business development.

Ben Fernandez's civic activities included a membership on the Council of Opportunity in Graduate Management Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the National Center for Voluntary Action, Washington, D. C., and the President's National Advisory Council for Minority Business Enterprise, Department of Commerce, Washington, D. C.

In addition to numerous professional achievements, Ben had been active politically. Some of his accomplishments in this area include: National Co-Chairman, the Finance Committee to Re-Elect the President, in 1972; National Chairman, the Hispanic Finance Committee to Re-Elect the President, 1972; the first National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly; and Member of the Executive Committee, the Republican National Committee, 1976.

Ben's service to our country included an appointment as Special Ambassador to the Republic of Paraguay, in 1973. While there he represented the United States at the inauguration of the President of Paraguay, and addressed the banking and savings and loan industries.

The father of three grown daughters, Ben Fernandez had been residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and traveled throughout the country as a Consulting Economist.

In 1972, at a special event held at McCormick Place, in Chicago, Illinois, I presented Ben with a gift that was a copy of an historical letter that was dated October 11, 1861. This is a letter written by President Benito Juarez, of Mexico, to my ancestor, General Santiago Tapia, the Governor and Military Commander of Puebla during the Battle of Cinco de Mayo 1862. The inscription that accompanied this gift, read as follows:


These were my personal feeling towards Ben 28 years ago, and continue to be more so today.
Gracias, Ben, por tanto que nos ayudaste y animaste.
Adios, amigo, E.C. (i.e., Esteemed Candidate), y adelante.

"Pancho" Vega


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