Elias Ramirez, 1880-1960

While browsing through some Sallyports from the early 1960s last night my attention was caught by a short article buried in the January 1961 issue. A long-serving maintenance man, Elias Ramirez, had passed away in December and was remembered fondly by alumni:

Much of the physical labor at the Rice Institute was done by Hispanics. For example, check out the names on this payroll time sheet for the construction of the original cinder track:


What’s rare is for for their names to make it into print, especially in a way that gives some clues about their lives. (Click here for an exception.) This time, however, it didn’t take much research for me to discover that the quiet, smiling man who took good care of our buildings for over four decades was a hero of the early days of the struggle for Mexican-American civil rights in Houston and Texas. Here is the Texas legislature’s concurrent resolution that named the state office building over on the east side in his honor:


Greatness surrounds us and we are so often looking for it in all the wrong places.

Bonus: One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez’s children, Joe, was a prisoner of war in Korea. Photographer Lou Witt at the Houston Chronicle captured his homecoming in 1953 in a remarkable series of images.

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9 Responses to Elias Ramirez, 1880-1960

  1. Lynne WRC ‘88 says:

    The Welcome Home photos bring tears to my eyes…

  2. Michael Ross says:

    Google StreetView of the Elias Ramirez State Office Building: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/973/41811650942_16c3c4f04b.jpg

  3. Leonard Lane says:

    I, too, teared up after reading this story. Thanks so much for putting all the information together and sharing it with us. A few years ago our firm provided some architectural services for the Ramirez building. I had no idea of the Rice connection. Houston is a small town.

  4. Galloway Hudson '60 says:

    Great story, Melissa. Thanks. I could not really read the roster because of my poor old eyes, but if it was mainly Hispanic names, it would resemble a roster of my high school classmates in Corpus Christi. Like Mr. Ramirez, most of them were outstanding people. I have a photo of one of them in the Oval Office with President Reagan. Juan Flores served as The Gipper’s guru on bi-lingual education.

  5. Gloria Meckel Tarpley says:

    This was really a special posting, Melissa — thank you! I wonder if any of Mr. Ramirez’ descendants have come to Rice as students? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing! Thank you very much for this post!

  6. Frank G. Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Texas SPQ says:

    Shall we assume that the older gentleman in the “coming home” picture is Elias Ramirez? Also, any idea which Catholic church is pictured?

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