Raul L. Longoria, attorney, district judge, and state legislator, was born on February 22, 1921, in La Grulla, Starr County, Texas. Some sources, including his birth certificate, give his birthday as February 28, but legislative records as well as his gravestone list February 22. He was the son of Andres and Enriqueta Longoria. He had six siblings and attended La Grulla public schools. He graduated from Rio Grande City High School in 1938. Soon after his high school graduation, Longoria worked with the federal employment program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). When he completed his CCC work, Longoria attended New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now New Mexico State University) and worked as a night watchman to fund his college education. He returned to the Rio Grande Valley and worked in another federal employment program, the National Youth Administration. Longoria enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and served in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. Upon his discharge in 1946, he made use of his G.I. Bill benefits and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin where he met his wife, Earlene Moorman of Gorham, Texas. They married on September 9, 1947, at St. Austin Church in Austin and later had five children. Longoria graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and subsequently received a law degree from the University of Texas in 1952.
After completing law school, Longoria moved his family to the Rio Grande Valley and established his law practice in Edinburg. He became known in the area for his concern and advocacy for the civil and labor rights of Mexican Americans. He became assistant district attorney of Hidalgo County in 1955 and then city attorney of Pharr, after which he worked in the private practice of law in Pharr and Edinburg. His reputation as a skilled attorney and public servant helped him win a seat as a Democrat in the House of the Fifty-seventh Texas Legislature where he represented District 38-1 (Hidalgo County). His term began on January 10, 1961. He subsequently represented Hidalgo County in the Fifty-ninth through Sixty-second legislatures. His district also included Kenedy and Kleberg counties in the Fifty-ninth legislature. His many committee memberships during his service in the House including chairing the Agriculture Committee (Sixty-second legislature), and he served on the Appropriations Committee in each of his terms.
After his service as state representative, the voters from District 27 (Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, and Jim Wells counties) elected Longoria to the Texas Senate in 1972. While in the Senate, he served on many committees, including the Administration, State Affairs, and Jurisprudence committees for multiple sessions. He was vice chair of the Higher Education in South Texas Committee (Sixty-fourth legislature) and chaired the Special Committee on Border Trade and Tourism (Sixty-fourth and Sixty-fifth legislatures). During his service, Longoria sponsored legislation on such important issues as labor, health, and education. His special concern for the education of Mexican American youth fueled his effort to promote higher education in the Rio Grande Valley and the advancement of Pan American University in Edinburg. He was also instrumental in improving the representation of Mexican Americans through gubernatorial appointments. The local leaders that benefitted from the appointments included: Carlos Godinez, to the Board of Medical Examiners; Ramiro Casso, to the Texas Board of Health; Lauro Guerra, to the Board of Regents of Texas Woman's University in Denton; and Ruben Torres, to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Longoria and eleven of his colleagues made national news when they protested and walked out of the legislature in 1979 to prevent a quorum and the passage of a bill that would have changed the presidential primary date in Texas. John Connally, a former Texas governor, would have benefited from the bill in his campaign for the presidency of the United States. Labeled the “Killer Bees” by Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, they hid in an apartment in Austin for thirteen days and successfully blocked the bill’s introduction. Many welcomed them back into the legislature as heroes. Longoria resigned from the Senate in 1981 following his successful election in 1980 to preside as judge of the 139th Judicial District Court in Hidalgo County. He served as judge until 1994.
Longoria earned several honors. He was elected president pro tempore of the Senate during the Sixty-fifth legislature. He also served as “Governor for a Day” on December 9, 1978. That same year, Hidalgo County commissioners named a road after him, and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District christened Raul L. Longoria Elementary School in his honor. Longoria and his wife Earlene were so interested in promoting higher education in the Rio Grande Valley that they established the Raul L. and Earlene Longoria Endowed Scholarship in 1994 at the University of Texas-Pan American (which later was merged to become part of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).
Upon retirement, Longoria and his wife moved Liberty, Texas. On May 7, 2001, Longoria died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia in Houston Methodist Hospital. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.