UPDATE: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday ordered all flags in the state of New Mexico to half-staff from Feb. 13 to 15 in honor of former state Rep. J. Paul Taylor, who passed away on Sunday.
EL Paso, Texas (KTSM) – New Mexico political icon and longtime Las Cruces area resident J. Paul Taylor died Sunday, Feb. 12 at the age of 102, according to numerous reports.
Taylor, often called the “Conscience of the Legislature,” served as a state representative from 1987 to 2005, representing the Las Cruces area.
He had suffered a heart attack earlier this month. When he turned 100 two years ago, it was marked by a statewide celebratory event with music, speakers and special guests.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued the following statement:
“You would be hard-pressed to find an individual as passionate about the people, culture and communities of New Mexico as J. Paul Taylor. 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.
“I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends – as well as the people of New Mexico –for the loss of such a legendary leader and advocate.”
Taylor’s home, on the historic Old Mesilla Plaza, has been preserved by the state and is now called the Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property.
“The historic property offers an exceptional setting for visitors to understand the history, culture, and architecture of Mesilla and the Southwest,” according to a website run by New Mexico Historic Sites.
Besides serving in the Legislature, Taylor was a longtime educator and rancher in the state of New Mexico. He was also known be a passionate preservationist and advocate for the arts.
New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego on Sunday issued the following statement on Taylor and his impact on New Mexico.
“I, along with the entire agency, join with many New Mexicans in grieving the loss of Mr. J. Paul Taylor, a man whose impact and legacy reaches to every corner of the state.
“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. As a New Mexico state legislator, Mr. Taylor advocated for the elevation of the Office of Cultural Affairs to a cabinet level department, including sponsoring the legislation that created the department nearly 25 years ago. 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. Mr. Taylor served as a member of the National Hispanic Cultural Center board of trustees and was a decades-long member of the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents where he remained active, having attended its last meeting on January 20. His generosity and citizenship will live on in the form of the Taylor-Reynolds-Barela Historic Site in Mesilla which he, his wife Mary Helen Daniels Taylor, and children have donated to the state of New Mexico.
“We offer our condolences to his family, friends, and the citizens of New Mexico for the loss of a true public servant who, through a lifetime of diligent service, proved himself to be a kind and humble leader for our state.”
Taylor was born in Chamberino, New Mexico, in 1920. He attended New Mexico State University.