Montoya, Joseph Manuel, 1915-1978

Birth 1915-09-24
Death 1978-06-05

Biographical notes:

Senator Joseph Montoya is arguably one of the most well known political leaders in contemporary New Mexico history. Born September 24, 1915 to Tom O. and Frances Montoya in Peña Blanca, N.M., he graduated from Bernalillo High School. He left New Mexico in 1931 to attend Regis College in Denver, Colorado. Graduating in 1934, he moved to Washington, D.C. to enroll in Georgetown University Law School. During his second year in law school, Montoya (just barely old enough to vote) was elected to the New Mexico State House of Representatives. He was reelected to that position in 1938, just after graduating from Georgetown Law School. By 1939, he was admitted to the New Mexico Bar and began his private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a member of the State legislature, Montoya was elected to the powerful position of Majority Floor Leader in 1939 and 1940. From 1940-1946, Montoya served as a state senator, achieving the leadership position of Majority Whip. He returned from other state positions to serve again as a state senator in 1953-1954 and later served as New Mexico Lt. Governor from 1955-1957. An unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1950 provided his first foray into the national political arena. He was elected to the Eighty-fifth Congress, April 9, 1957. He served four successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was appointed to the important House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees before resigning on November 3, 1964. Following the death of Senator Dennis Chavez in November of 1962, Governor Ed Mecham was appointed to hold New Mexico's vacant Senate seat until November of 1964. Montoya was elected to fill the remaining unexpired term and was sworn in on November 4, 1964. His own first full term as a United States Senator began January 3, 1965. He attained powerful positions on the Appropriations and Public Works Committees, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, and the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, notably serving as Watergate Committee member and IRS Hearings chair. Throughout his career, Senator Montoya authored, co-sponsored, or actively supported legislation in the following areas: civil rights, consumer protection, the elderly, agriculture, environmental protection, economic development, equal opportunity, education, health, and veterans. In 1976 he was defeated for office by Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. Senator Montoya was married to Della Romero of Santa Fe. They were parents of three children: Lynda, Patrick and Joseph, Jr. Montoya died in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 1978. He is interred in Rosario Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From the description of Joseph M. Montoya papers, 1913-1977 (bulk 1957-1976). (University of New Mexico-Main Campus). WorldCat record id: 264741187


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  • Pueblo Indians--Legal status, laws, etc
  • Older people--Law and legislation
  • Multicultural education
  • Mexican Americans--Education
  • Mexican Americans
  • Natural resources--Law and legislation
  • Democratic Party (N.M.)--History
  • Public works
  • Discrimination--Law and legislation
  • Affirmative action programs
  • Rural electrification
  • Navajo Indians--Social conditions
  • Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
  • Indians of North America--Law and legislation
  • Pueblo Indians--Social conditions
  • Education, Bilingual
  • Education, higher
  • Mexican Americans--Civil rights
  • Pueblo Indians--Economic conditions
  • Consumer protection
  • Democratic Party (U.S.)--History
  • Veterans
  • Expenditures, Public
  • Navajo Indians--Economic conditions
  • Rural development
  • Land use, Rural
  • Indians of North America--Civil rights
  • Navajo Indians--Legal status, laws, etc


  • Congressman
  • Senators--United States
  • Lieutenant governors
  • Senators, U.S. Congress--New Mexico


  • United States (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)