Eva Camúñez Tucker, educator, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was a prominent patron in the West Texas city of San Angelo and is remembered today by many as the madrina or “godmother of San Angelo” due to her wide-ranging philanthropic efforts. She was born to Reynaldo and Josefa Lara Camúñez on April 9, 1911, in San Angelo, Texas, and was raised in a traditional Catholic household. She initially attended segregated “Mexican-only” public schools in San Angelo, where many children of Mexican descent did not advance beyond the elementary grades. Hoping for a better experience for their daughter, Josefa and Reynaldo sent Eva to Incarnate Word Academy in San Antonio for secondary schooling. Two years later, her parents received notice that their daughter had been admitted to San Angelo High School. This made it possible for Eva to become the first Mexican American woman to graduate from San Angelo High in 1930.
Determined to further her education, she attended San Angelo College (now Angelo State University), where she earned a teaching certificate in 1932. Unable to teach in the city of San Angelo, she began a teaching career in Mertzon, Texas, where she was assigned to instruct Mexican American children in a segregated setting. Eva Camúñez commuted to work from San Angelo with the help of local sheepshearers, because the Anglo community in Mertzon would not allow her to rent a home. Five years after entering the teaching profession, she moved to Ballinger, Texas, and became the first Mexican American principal in Ballinger by 1942. While in Ballinger, Eva met and began dating Art Tucker, an independent oilman.
During World War II, Eva Camúñez stopped teaching and became a mail censor in San Antonio, Texas. Upon earning a promotion in 1945, she traveled from Brownsville and Laredo and managed local mail censor offices. She eventually landed a position in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a translator for the U. S. State Department from 1945 to 1948.
Eva Camúñez married Art Tucker in 1948 and moved back to Ballinger. Over the next three decades, Tucker worked with her husband to grow their trucking and oil business and eventually purchased an oil refinery in the town of Leuders, near Abilene, Texas, in 1962. After the death of her husband in 1975, Tucker inherited substantial assets. She moved back to San Angelo in 1976, where she lived in her parents’ small cottage and invested heavily in a wide range of financial securities. She spent the remainder of her life using her monetary power to help those in need in the community and provided generous financial support to several educational, religious, artistic, and other charitable causes in West Texas, Mexico, and places overseas.
Tucker helped create the Up and Coming Scholars program at Angelo State University (ASU). She also commissioned a bronze statue of sheepshearers on the ASU campus as a way to thankfully remember the men who helped her commute from San Angelo to Mertzon many years earlier. Aside from her passion for educational endeavors, Tucker helped several Catholic parishes in the state and other countries. She was especially supportive of St. Joseph Catholic Church in San Angelo, of which she was a devout member.
Tucker also donated millions to numerous civic and social organizations, as well as historic preservation projects, including the Concho Valley Home for Girls, the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, Hospice of San Angelo, the San Angelo Symphony, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, the West Texas Collection located at ASU, and the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark. In 1993 she established the Art and Eva Camúñez Tucker Foundation, which primarily supports Hispanic heritage research, geriatric research, educational and youth services, and Roman Catholic organizations. In recognition of her dedication to the community, ASU presented Tucker with its first honorary doctorate degree in 1996. Also, the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year in 1995; the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas named her one of their “Texas Women of the Century” in 1999; and she was named a “Latina Legend” at the Images of Women conference in 2000. Pope John Paul II added to these recognitions by investing Tucker in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The Catholic Church later awarded her a Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award (also known as the Cross of Honor) in 1996.
After a period of failing health, Eva Camúñez Tucker passed away in San Angelo on June 24, 2007, at the age of ninety-six. Following a widely attended funeral Mass at St. Joseph Church in San Angelo, she was buried at Calvary Cemetery.