Pharr’s first Hispanic mayor, racewalking pioneer dies at 84

A.C. Jaime Photo by German Garcia

A.C. “Beto” Jaime, the first Hispanic mayor of the city of Pharr and pioneering founder of the South Texas Walking Club, has died at the age of 84.

His death comes after a battle with COVID-19, according to his daughter, Doreen Morgan, who wrote on social media that her father died Thursday after both he and his wife, Dora Garcia Jaime, had recently been fighting the disease.

“Prayer warriors. Both my parents are losing their battle to covid. My mother, Dora Jaime, was released to hospice care at home. My father, AC Jaime, is too critical and has not,” Morgan said Wednesday on Facebook. “Please pray they allow him to be transported home so that they may pass away holding each other. If (they) allow it, pray he does not die (en route). Only holding my mother.”

Morgan provided an update Thursday, saying Jaime had died and thanked the healthcare workers for giving the family time with her father.

“We give thanks to the caring medical staff that allowed us to FaceTime with him as he drew his last breath. My heart is broken,” she said on Facebook.

Jaime was born in Premont on May 10, 1936, and moved to Pharr in 1958.

After graduating from then Pan American University in Edinburg in 1962 with a degree in accounting, Jaime soon became a certified public accountant, the fourth in the Rio Grande Valley of Mexican-American descent.

Jaime specialized in cases involving income tax, often being called upon by fellow CPAs to help settle cases with the Internal Revenue Service.

He married Dora and together had six children.

In 1971, unrest surrounding the treatment of Mexican-Americans in the city culminated in a protest against then Mayor R.S. Bowe and Chief of Police Alfredo Ramirez.

This led to the Pharr riot of Feb. 6, 1971, in which close to 100 law enforcement agents from the surrounding communities descended on Pharr to quell the protesters.

A man named Poncho Flores was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy during this chaos.

Soon after, Bowe and Ramirez resigned from their positions. It was at this time that Jaime ran for mayor.

In 1972, Jaime was elected mayor of Pharr, the first Mexican-American mayor since the city’s inception in 1906.

Aside from easing racial tensions in the city during his administration, Jaime was also the first person to introduce the city manager form of government to Pharr. It was also during his administration that the city obtained the U.S. State Department Presidential Bridge Permit, which eventually led to the construction of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.

His other accomplishments include becoming the first president of Amigos Del Valle, as well as being a founding board member of the Vannie E Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation in McAllen.

In his retirement, Jaime was a beloved figure in the racewalking community, and is credited with spearheading the activity in the Valley by coaching generations of student-athletes and often donated tens of thousands of his own dollars for training and supplies, according to the AARP.

In an interview with The Monitor on Facebook, Jaime’s daughter described her father as a giant of a man with a larger than life smile.

“When we knew we had to put the word out to Facebook of his passing we struggled as to what to write because he had done so many things and was many things to people,” Morgan wrote. “Mayor, coach, CPA, activist, humanitarian, friend, father, husband. He did a lot in his 80-plus years and never really slowed down.”

She said that he was by his wife’s side even as his complications from COVID-19 got worse.

“Mom and Dad had quite a love affair,” Morgan said. “She has had Alzheimers for almost 19 years and he never left her side, she was never placed in a nursing home but he kept her with him and just hired help to come assist him. Even when he was struck with covid, he continued to help her until the ambulance took him away.

“They had a love people dream of.”

Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez spoke highly of Jaime’s contributions to the community while sharing his condolences with the former mayor’s family.

“Our hearts go out to his family. We lost a great hero, a great icon for the city of Pharr,” Hernandez said Friday. “Given today’s tension, we’re really thinking of him and his leadership at this time. His input would’ve been appreciated during these troubling times in our county.”

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa also shared his thoughts on the passing of the former mayor.

“He was a straight-forward, well-spoken man,” Hinojosa said. “I always respected him. He did a great job with the city of Pharr. My condolences to the family.”