J. FRANK TORRES
Crusader and Judge, An Oral History
“J. Frank Torres, born in 1897, was the scion of a New Mexican family that moved to the Purgatoire River Valley in what is today the area of Trinidad, Colorado. Torres was self-educated until the age of 13. His first priority was to master English, and at the age of 15 he finished the eighth grade. From an early age, it rankled him to see Hispanic people treated as second-class citizens by the dominant population. His moral values and keen intellect convinced him that ‘integrity, hard work, education and participation in democracy were the only route to a better life for all citizens.’ Only by seeking social justice for everyone could equality be achieved, he felt, because separatism led to more discrimination.
“Torres grew up to be a complex, highly moral, idealistic and committed individual. At 17 he began his own fee-based school for rural youth. He started a Boy Scout troop as a way of building character in boys. Realizing that the practice of law was a way to fight society’s ills, he applied to the Denver Law School but was refused entry because they didn’t ‘want his kind there.’ He was accepted by Westminster Law School, where he finished at the top of his class.
“Torres set up a law office in Trinidad and soon was serving client from all classes of people. He took on the Ku Klux Klan and the corrupt politicians of Ánimas County, and his fairness won him the trust of the common citizens. He ran for county judge as an Independent and won after bucking the political machine, which had backed another candidate, and assailed discrimination wherever he encountered it. Torres was an issue-oriented individual who had little tolerance for small talk, even on social occasions.
“After retirement he moved to Santa Fe to be close to his family, and as he aged he shared his life story with the author. The only weakness in the book comes when the author compares Frank to Don Quixote. He wasn’t a Quixote—Torres fought real issues, and won most of the time.
“This book is an inspirational must-read. Torres’s example emboldens us to stand firm when confronted by injustice or dishonesty.”