Romualdo Pacheco (October 31, 1831–January 23, 1899) was a Hispanic-American politician who, so far, has been the only Hispanic governor of California following its admission to the United States. He represented California in the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1877 to February 7, 1878, and from March 4, 1879 to March 3, 1883. He was the first Hispanic to represent an American state; several others had previously served as delegates for territories and did not have voting privileges. Pacheco served as Lieutenant Governor of California under Newton Booth until Booth was elected to the United States Senate in 1875, so Pacheco served as governor of his home state that year until William Irwin was elected to the position. Early in his political career in the 1850s, he was a Democrat. He became affiliated with the Union Party in the 1860s, but was elected to most of his positions as a candidate for the Republican Party.
He was born in Santa Barbara, California to Ramona Carrillo de Pacheco and Captain Romualdo Pacheco. His family was prominent in what was then Alta California. Captain Pacheco had moved to California from Guanajuato in 1825 and served as an aide to Governor José Maria de Echeandía. However, he died when the young Romualdo was just five weeks old. His mother later married a Scotsman named Captain John D. Wilson, who sent Romualdo to Honolulu, Hawaii for his education.
At the age of 12, Pacheco began an apprenticeship aboard a trading vessel. The Mexican-American War broke out around this time, and he was briefly held by American forces on one trip in July 1849 as he brought cargo to Yerba Buena (now known as San Francisco). The ship he was on was searched, and he made an oath of allegiance to the United States and was released.
Pacheco's association with a prominent family in the state helped him to gain support as he entered politics in the 1850s. He was also well-respected by whites coming into the area. He was elected to the state senate in 1857 and re-elected two times, serving until 1863. However, the United States became involved in the American Civil War, and Pacheco was appointed the rank of brigadier general by Governor Leland Stanford and directed to disarm military companies in the Los Angeles area that were not composed of Union loyalists.
He served as state treasurer for a few years, then returned to the state senate until becoming lieutenant governor. After briefly serving as governor, Pacheco ran for a U.S. House seat, winning by just one vote. His opponent, Peter D. Wigginton contested the election, eventually forcing Pacheco to leave when the House Committee on Elections refused Pacheco's certificate of election. Returning to California, he went into business for a few years until winning a House seat in 1879.
He lived on a cattle ranch in the northern Mexican province of Coahuila for five years until being appointed as a U.S. envoy. He returned to California in 1893, dying in Oakland in 1899.
Pacheco was proficient at riding horses and is the only known governor of California to have lassoed a grizzly bear.
- Biography from the State of California (http://www.governor.ca.gov/govsite/govsgallery/h/biography/governor_12.html)
- Biography of Romualdo Pacheco from the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/congress/pacheco.html)