Fresno State’s national and state flags will fly at half-staff Friday (April 21) in memory of Hon. Armando Rodriguez, an alumnus, Air Force veteran and former Fresno County Superior Court judge and supervisor who also was recognized with the President’s Medal of Distinction by University President Joseph I. Castro.

The retired judge will be interred Friday at Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno (201 N. Teilman Ave.), where he will be laid to rest next to his late wife, Betty. A rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. today (April 19) at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fresno and funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the church (355 E. Champlain Drive).

Castro issued the directive that the flags be lowered in honor of Mr. Rodriguez, who as a 1959 graduate of then-Fresno State College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, was one of the institution’s few Latino students at the time.

The judge earned many honors and accolades, including the President’s Medal of Distinction awarded by Castro in May 2015 in recognition of his distinguished legal career and service to the community.

“Judge Rodriguez was a bold, influential and trailblazing leader in our community,” said Castro, who with his wife Mary Castro, was able to visit the judge just prior to his passing.

“He and his wife, Betty, were tireless advocates for opportunities for the undeserved in our region. The judge loved his alma mater, Fresno State, and I was honored to award him the President’s Medal of Distinction. Mary and I are saddened by the loss of our close friend, but we know he is in a better place.”

The ninth of 12 children, Mr. Rodriguez served four years as an Air Force code specialist in the Korean War. He attended Fresno State on the GI Bill and, after graduation, earned his law degree from the Lincoln School of Law in San Francisco before establishing the first California Rural Legal Assistance program.

In 1972, Mr. Rodriguez became the first Latino elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to be a Fresno County Superior Court judge in 1975. 

Mr. Rodriguez retired in 1996 but continued to serve on assignment covering court vacancies throughout the state. Known as an icon in the local Latino community, Mr. Rodriguez enjoyed a long history of service working in leadership roles with Arte Americas, Fresno State Alumni Association, Radio Bilingüe, Community Medical Centers, Fresno-Torreon Sister-City Committee and other community organizations.

In 2011 he was presented the Top Dog Outstanding Alumnus Award by the Fresno State Alumni Association on behalf of the College of Social Sciences.

Mr. Rodriguez and his wife were each recipients of La Medalla Ohtli, the highest recognition the Mexican government bestows on non-Mexican citizens. The Rodriguezes received numerous honors for their work with the Mexican Consulate, with Fresno’s sister city Torreon and with youth from Mexico.

Dr. Victor Olivares, president of the Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association at Fresno State, said Mr. Rodriguez should be remembered not just because of his firsts as a Latino but also for helping open the doors of higher education to the less advantaged. 

“Judge Rodriguez made an impact by living a life of seizing the opportunities to make things better for those individuals who have the longest journey to travel to achieve success,” Olivares said. “This is the judge’s true legacy.”   

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