McALLEN — If Texas is the hope of the world and the Rio Grande Valley is the hope of Texas, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday night, then Eddie Lucio Jr. has represented that hope for more than 30 years.
Lucio was awarded Border Texan of the Year Friday night at the McAllen Convention Center. Border Texan is an honor that has been given to those such as then-Gov. George W. Bush, former Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, late U.S. Rep. Eligio “Kika” de la Garza, State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and many more.
Patrick, the powerful Republican who first met Lucio at a committee hearing in Houston in the mid-2000s, has not made many trips to the Valley since in elected office and has not treated the Valley favorably over the years. But Friday he called it “vibrant,” and the backbone of Texas.
Lucio and many who gave presentations about him talked often about him being a family man, and one of strong faith. Lucio’s son, Eddie Lucio III, discussed how much he learned from him as a father, now being a father himself. Lucio spoke highly of his family, especially boasting about his grandchildren.
Glen E. Roney, a past winner and chairman of the Border Texan of the Year Committee, said when Lucio was announced as winner in January that Lucio’s work with veterans, healthcare and public schools contributed to his selection.
“He’s in a class by itself,” Patrick said of Lucio, even though the two often times don’t see eye to eye on the Senate floor at the Capitol in Austin.
Lucio used to represent both Cameron and Hidalgo counties, but as the Valley grew another district was created, that seat now occupied by State Sen. Hinojosa, who shared several embraces with Lucio during his presentation.
“There is great stress and pressure,” Hinojosa said of working in the state senate. But that Lucio taught him a lot about staying grounded.
“Tonight’s his night,” Patrick said. “But I want to say, you’re blessed to have two senators who are a one, two punch. By the way, what’s this thing with pressures and tension? I want an easy chop there, Chuy. But you have a great one, two punch. No two senators anywhere in the state represent their region, and bring home more to their region, than these two senators. They’re good men. But working with Eddie Lucio, I discovered that he was in a class by itself.”
Patrick then thanked all the elected officials and politicians in the room.
“But Eddie’s a statesman,” Patrick said. “That’s rare. He’s a statesman because he casts his vote to do what, in his heart, he believes is right for his district.”