Friday, June 29, 2007
Melquíades Rafael "Mel" Martínez (born October 23, 1946) is a Cuban-born American politician, who is currently the junior United States Senator from Florida and the General Chairman of the Republican Party. Previously, Martinez served as the 12th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush.
Martinez was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba. He came to the United States in 1962 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Peter Pan, which brought into the U.S. more than 14,000 children. Upon arrival in the U.S., Martinez was alone and spoke virtually no English. After living with two foster families, he was reunited with his family in Orlando in 1966.
Martinez attended Bishop Moore High School in Orlando on scholarship. After graduation, he attended Florida State as an undergrad and as a law student.
Martinez resigned his cabinet post in December 2003 to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida being vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Bob Graham. Martinez secured the Republican nomination and narrowly defeated the Democratic nominee, Betty Castor. His election made him the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. Martinez and Ken Salazar were the first Latino U.S. Senators since 1977. They were joined by Bob Menendez in January 2006.
Martinez and his wife Kitty have three children and two grandchildren.