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Joseph Manuel Montoya (September 24, 1915 – June 5, 1978) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the lieutenant governor of New Mexico (1947–1951 and 1955–1957), in the U.S. House of Representatives (1957–1964) and as a U.S. senator from New Mexico (1964–1977).

Joseph Montoya
Joseph M Montoya.jpg
United States Senator
from New Mexico
In office
November 4, 1964 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byEdwin L. Mechem
Succeeded byHarrison Schmitt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's at-large district
In office
April 9, 1957 – November 3, 1964
Preceded byAntonio M. Fernández
Succeeded byJohnny Walker
14th and 16th Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico
In office
January 1, 1955 – April 9, 1957
GovernorJohn F. Simms
Edwin L. Mechem
Preceded byEd Mead
Succeeded byTibo Chávez
In office
January 1, 1947 – January 1, 1951
GovernorThomas J. Mabry
Preceded byJames B. Jones
Succeeded byTibo Chávez
Personal details
Joseph Manuel Montoya

(1915-09-24)September 24, 1915
Pena Blanca, New Mexico, U.S.
DiedJune 5, 1978(1978-06-05) (aged 62)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Della Romero
EducationRegis University (BA)
Georgetown University (LLB)

Family and EducationEdit

Montoya was born in Peña Blanca, New Mexico. His parents, Thomas and Frances Montoya, were Roman Catholic descendants of eighteenth-century Spanish settlers to New Mexico.[1] He received his early education in public schools in Sandoval County and graduated from Bernalillo High School in 1931. He continued his education at Regis College in Denver, Colorado. In 1934 he began law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C..

Later life and careerEdit

In 1936 at age 21, while Montoya was still at Georgetown, he became the youngest representative in the history of the state to be elected to the New Mexico State House of Representatives. In 1938 Montoya graduated from law school and was reelected. The following year he was elected the Democratic majority floor leader.

New Mexico politicsEdit

Montoya continued his political ascent with his election to the New Mexico State Senate in 1940, once again becoming the youngest member of that body ever elected. By the time he left the Senate in 1946, Montoya had been twice reelected to the State Senate and held the positions of majority whip and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. From 1947 to 1957 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico three times[2] and also served two additional terms in the State Senate.

U.S. CongressEdit

In 1957 Montoya was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election after the sudden death of the recently reelected New Mexican Congressman Antonio M. Fernández. In Congress Montoya gained a recognition as a political moderate, a dedicated Democrat, and a diligent legislator — qualities that earned him the esteem of his fellow legislators and made him an effective congressman. In 1962 he defeated Republican Jack Redman, also an Albuquerque High School alumni.[1] In 1963 he became a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He was a strong advocate of education measures and soon authored the Vocational Education Act. In 1964 he sponsored the Wilderness Act, which protected wilderness areas. Montoya won the 1964 Senate election to complete the term of Dennis Chavez, who died in office. Montoya won even though the Governor of New Mexico, Edwin L. Mechem, had resigned the governorship in order fill the seat temporarily. Thus began a twelve-year career in the Senate, where he served on the Appropriations Committee; the Public Works Committee; the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy; and most memorably, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, popularly known as the Senate Watergate Committee.


Montoya's most important accomplishment was his work on the Senate Agriculture Committee, where he gained expertise concerning the inspection and regulation of the meat packing industry. This led to an interest in consumer safety and health. He authored numerous pieces of legislation aimed at eliminating unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry, including the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967, the Wholesome Poultry Act of 1968 and the Clean Hot Dog Act of 1974.

Beliefs and other workEdit

Montoya also worked on behalf of civil rights, education, health care, and alien workers. In the health-care area he supported medicare, medicaid, and introduced a bill to provide bilingual training for those in the health care professions. Montoya also supported environmental protection and programs to assist the elderly. His positions on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and the Senate Appropriations Committee allowed him to have a strong influence on maintenance of the federal installations in New Mexico.

Montoya was the only member of the Senate Watergate Committee whose reputation was harmed by his appearance in the televised proceedings of the committee. He came across as dull, spoke in a slow monotone, and at times appeared slow-witted. Comedians joked about him and New Mexicans were embarrassed. In 1976, a year that was a Democratic victory nationwide, Montoya was solidly defeated by Republican Harrison Schmitt 57% to 42%.

Montoya spent the next two years primarily helping Senator Pete Domenici to keep the federal installations in New Mexico open. Montoya died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 62.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Spanish Americans, Lives and faces
  2. ^ State of New Mexico (July 2012). Kathryn A. Flynn (ed.). 2012 Centennial Blue Book (PDF). Diana J. Duran. Office of the New Mexico Secretary of State. pp. 218–219.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
James B. Jones
Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico
Succeeded by
Tibo Chávez
Preceded by
Ed Mead
Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Antonio M. Fernández
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's at-large congressional district
Seat 2

Succeeded by
Johnny Walker
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dennis Chávez
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New Mexico
(Class 1)

1964, 1970, 1976
Succeeded by
Jeff Bingaman
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Edwin L. Mechem
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Mexico
Served alongside: Clinton Anderson, Pete Domenici
Succeeded by
Harrison Schmitt