J. Paul Taylor: Educator, Civic Leader and Politician

On August 24, 2020, J. Paul Taylor celebrated his 100th birthday. Due to the current health crisis, an in-person celebration was not held as in the past. Instead, a virtual centennial celebration was held to honor Mr. Taylor, where family and friends sent digital birthday greetings and recollections.

Color image of J. Paul Taylor

J. Paul Taylor photographed in 2006. Ms0523.

For those not familiar with J. Paul Taylor, let me share with you some biographical information about the one-of-a-kind educator, civic leader, and politician whom many New Mexicans highly respect and cherish. Mr. Taylor was born on August 24, 1920 in Chamberino, New Mexico. He attended and graduated from New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU) with a bachelor’s degree in history. After college, he enlisted in the United States Navy. After serving in the Navy, Taylor returned to Las Cruces to work as an assistant registrar at the college and then later shifted into teaching. He also served as an administrator within the Las Cruces Public Schools. In total, Taylor spent more than three decades in the public school system.

Black and white image of J. Paul Taylor's class

J. Paul Taylor’s class at Chamberino, ca. 1929. J. Paul Taylor papers, RG2003-079/Ms0523.

In 1986, Taylor began his remarkable career as a New Mexico politician. While serving in the New Mexico House of Representatives, he was involved in numerous committees, such as the Appropriations and Finance Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee. He was known locally for his dedication to educating New Mexico’s children, preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of the Mesilla Valley, and serving as a moral and upright leader.

Black and white image of J. Paul Taylor

J. Paul Taylor addressing school teachers during his time spent with the Las Cruces Public School system. RG2016-006/Ms0523

The Archives and Special Collections (ASC), is proud that the J. Paul Taylor papers are housed with the Rio Grande Historical Collections. The J. Paul Taylor papers document the long personal and professional life of the active southern New Mexican educator, politician and advocate for social justice. Taylor represented Doña Ana County District 33 in the New Mexico House of Representatives for 18 years, from 1986 to 2004. The bulk of the collection consists of Taylor’s political papers; however, a significant amount of material pertains to his personal life and to his active involvement in education, community affairs, arts and culture, and a multitude of local, regional and international organizations.

Material from the Taylor papers, Ms0523.

For those interested in viewing the J. Paul Taylor papers, the preliminary finding aid can be viewed via the Rocky Mountain Online Archive. Processing of the collection is in an early stage. In addition, I suggest reading J. Paul Taylor: The Man from Mesilla by Ana Pacheco. Overall, the book is a relaxing read for anyone wanting to know more about J. Paul Taylor and his achievements and how his personal and professional career shaped southern New Mexico and the Mesilla Valley. Pacheco’s writing and inside knowledge is descriptive and rich in nature, which makes this book a valuable resource to individuals wanting to know more about J. Paul and his impact on the region. Due to the personal relationship that Pacheco developed over the years with the Taylor family, the personable recounting of memories comes to life and is vividly captured throughout the book.

On behalf of the ASC, we wish Mr. Taylor a wonderful year ahead.

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