Former New Mexico lawmaker J. Paul Taylor - 'conscience of the legislature' — dies at 102 - Albuquerque Journal

Former New Mexico lawmaker J. Paul Taylor – ‘conscience of the legislature’ — dies at 102

New Mexico state Rep. J. Paul Taylor ,D-Doña Ana, center explains the intricacies of a bill to a group of Holy Cross Catholic School seventh-graders visiting the Legislature in January 2002. Taylor retired as a lawmaker in 2005 and died Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023 at his home in Mesilla at age 102.

A longtime educator and state lawmaker, J. Paul Taylor died Sunday surrounded by family at his historic home in Mesilla.

He was 102.

Taylor earlier this month had a heart attack, said Mary Helen Ratje, his daughter.

“Everybody has really came together and supported and helped,” she said Sunday. “And we had all of us here to pay our respects to him and to help him in his final days.”

Taylor was a representative in the New Mexico Legislature for nearly 20 years before retiring in 2005. He had a reputation as a strong advocate for arts and culture and bilingual education.

He was a teacher and principal in New Mexico and a New Mexico Education Association official. The J. Paul Taylor Academy in Las Cruces is named in his honor and Ratje teaches at the school.

“He’s kind of a rock star over there,” she said Sunday.

Taylor was nicknamed the “conscience of legislature” at one point during his career.

Taylor and his wife, Mary Daniels Taylor, had seven children, many of whom still live in the Mesilla area.

The family lived in a historic adobe home, which is where Taylor died.

The home is in the National Register of Historic Places, and showcases the family’s collection of Spanish Colonial, Mexican, and New Mexican artwork and textiles.

Ratje said her father’s passion for public service and children came from his parents.

“He watched his parents, they were people that cared about other people and helped in the community. And I think that his love for people came from his upbringing. He’s always been very proud of his roots.”

Taylor’s father, William Robert Taylor, was a Texas native and his mother, María Margarita Romero, traced her ancestry to Juan de Cabeza de Vaca, one of the first colonists to arrive in New Mexico, according to Taylor’s website.

He earned degrees from New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, which is now New Mexico State University and was also a World War II-era veteran. Taylor served on numerous boards, inclduding the Rio Grande Historical Collection, Colonial New Mexico Historical Foundation, Doña Ana Arts Council and Doña Ana Historical Society.

Ratje said her father was a great storyteller, and stayed sharp and loved having conversation up until his final days. He had a phone that was accommodated for him so he could answer and make phone calls without pushing buttons, she said.

“He had a memory like no one’s business,” Ratje said. “He didn’t just remember names. He remembered dates and facts.”

New Mexico Rep. J. Paul Taylor, D-Doña Ana, explains the workings of the House of Representatives to granddaughter Rebecca Stolberg, top, House Page Andrew Duran, middle, and grandson Michael Stolberg, bottom, during Education Day at the Legislature in 1997. Taylor died Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, at age 102.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Sunday offered her condolences to the Taylor family.

“You would be hard-pressed to find an individual as passionate about the people, culture and communities of New Mexico as J. Paul Taylor,” she said in a statement. “For my own part, I consider him to be a friend and mentor who demonstrated the true heart of a servant, always striving to make New Mexico a better place to live for future generations. I have no doubt that the compassion and integrity he demonstrated throughout his 102 years of life will be felt for hundreds of years to come.”

New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego said Taylor’s legacy reached every corner of the state. Taylor was instrumental in creating the Department of Cultural Affairs.

“Mr. Taylor was a true champion of protecting and preserving New Mexico’s diverse cultural resources for every citizen and, especially, for the education of its children,” she said in a statement. “He was a national champion for arts and culture, having played a key role in creating one of the largest and broadest state cultural agencies in the country.”


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