Former state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Sr. has died after recently becoming ill with COVID-19, the Hidalgo County Democratic Party announced via social media Thursday morning.
The father of current state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. and the party’s vice chair, Muñoz Sr. served as representative for Texas’ 36th district between 1993 and 1997.
The Palmview native was 68 at the time of his death. He died at DHR Health (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance) in Edinburg.
“I know he fought a hard long battle to the end, and that was just who he was,” Muñoz Jr. said of his father. “He never gave up.”
In 1995, during the 74th Legislature, Muñoz Sr. served on the House Committee on Elections, which among several tasks reviewed early voting by mail problems and provided oversight of that year’s Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.
During the same session, Muñoz Sr. also served on a county affairs committee tasked with understanding issues that arose from proposals to change or eliminate certain county offices.
Muñoz Sr. was no stranger to such committees, having previously served on the elections body in the 1993 session, in which he was among several representatives who reviewed agencies’ reporting requirements on streamlining obligations and improving accountability.
For his son, Muñoz Jr. said he owes much to his father’s principles.
“What he instilled in us was to never give up, to always move forward and to always do what you feel in your heart is the right thing to do, no matter what,” the state rep. said. “He definitely opened up many doors for me. I was always honored to have him be a part of me and my campaign… I would not be where I am if it were not for what he had taught me.”
Muñoz Jr. added that he will remember his father’s strength and dedication to helping others.
“He was the type of person that it does not matter what time or where it was, if he could help you he would do it,” he said. “I think today is just a reminder of how much of a great person he was, and the people he helped throughout our community.”
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa has been a colleague of both the son and father in the Texas House.
“Everyone just knew who he was,” Hinojosa said of Muñoz Sr. “You’d see him at every place. You’d see him at Koko’s at McAllen meeting with people discussing politics, discussing issues. You go to (events) and there he was, always being very active, participating.”
Hinojosa said he will particularly remember Muñoz Sr. as an active state lawmaker.
“He was never a person to sit,” the senator recalled of Muñoz Sr. “He was always active in trying to find ways to improve the community and work with different groups.”
Hinojosa noted that though Muñoz Sr. was a “soft-spoken individual,” he was loud about how he would represent the Valley by always bringing ideas to the table.
“One thing about Sergio is that he was always full of ideas and projects. He was always thinking about ways to make things better,” the senator said.
Emphasizing voter registration was important to Muñoz Sr., Hinojosa added.
“He had ideas of how to register more voters in the western part of Hidalgo, he was the person who pushed that and coordinated that,” the senator said. “It was important to him because he knew that the people’s voice was a vote.”
Muñoz Sr. also focused on education and worked to raise the salaries of local teachers.
Hinojosa said in addition to being a hard-working leader in the Valley, he recalls Muñoz Sr. being a light-hearted person who looked at the brighter side of things.
“Even when things got tough in the legislature, or just in general in life, he always had a good sense of humor,” Hinojosa said.
Muñoz Sr. and his wife Connie raised their family in the Mission area, where he worked in health care and she was an educator. His daughter, Marla Muñoz-Lopez, also works in health care.
His son, Muñoz Jr., is an attorney and sole principal of the Muñoz Law Firm, having also served at one time as a municipal court judge in Palmview, and is a member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association.
In 2010, the son followed in his father’s footsteps and began his first term as state representative for District 36.
“(Muñoz Jr.) is always pushing for legislation that I know his father would support and be a benefit to the Rio Grande Valley,” Hinojosa said. “He is carrying his father’s legacy.”
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez expressed similar sentiment about the former state rep as Hinojosa.
“A loving father, grandfather, husband and friend to many,” Cortez said via text message. “A political activist very involved in local politics. A mentor to many. He will be missed. My most sincere condolences go out to his family.”
Muñoz Sr.’s death comes a week after Pharr’s first Hispanic mayor, A.C. Jaime succumbed to COVID-19 complications, and on the same day as former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died under similar circumstances.
Hinojosa noted that as the novel coronavirus continues to spread and claim lives, it is imperative for the public to be diligent in following social distancing precautions.
“The virus has impacted all of us,” the senator said. “Almost every day you pick up the newspaper and you have a former legislature, former candidate for president, a congressperson that tested positive… People need to take this seriously. This is here to say; it is not going away.”
Muñoz Jr. said though his family is grieving the loss of his father, his lessons and love remain with them.
“I think for us as a family, we are deeply saddened but we are honored and blessed to have had him in our lives, and to continue to have a part of him in our lives moving forward,” he said.