Sen. Judith Zaffirini is 2015
PWT Communicator of Achievement
Long-time member and perennial contest winner Senator Judith Zaffirini was honored with Press Women of Texas' highest honor, Communicator of Achievement at the June annual meeting in Fredericksburg.
Sen. Zaffirini was described by director Angela Smith in her NFPW nomination to compete in the national COA contest this way:
Texas Monthly has named Senator Judith Zaffirini one of Texas “ 10 Best Legislators” four times. Our COA and NFPW nominee has also been named an Honorary Nun and Mr. South Texas.
Dating back to selling peanuts and collecting for the March of Dimes to fund polio research when she was five-years-old, Judith Zaffirini has devoted her life to the greater good. As the 15-year-oold president of the All City Laredo Student Council, she organized fundraisers for children with intellectual disabilities.
Those childhood activities are the core of her legislative priorities – health and human services, with a focus on the very young, the very old, the very poor, persons with disabilities; and education in general.
Judy Pappas grew up with three sisters at a time when expectations for girls were low. Her mother, a secretary, wanted her daughters to be polite, to be bilingual, to learn how to type, so they could find jobs as secretaries if they had to work, and to marry well. Her father, a railroad clerk, taught her to fight for the underdog.
As a 13-year old freshman at Ursuline Academy, Judy started going steady with her future husband Carlos Zaffarini. When he found out that she had straight Fs, he threatened to break up with her unless she straightened out. She did and with his tutoring, was able to pass her finals and be on the honor roll for the next three years. He persuaded her to go to college. Totally self-supporting since she was 17, she married Carlos when she was 18 and he was a 21-year-old Tulane graduate. Motivated by him, she became the first college graduate in her family, earning Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts and PhD degrees in education and communication from the University of Texas, with a 3.9 GPA. She and Carlos recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and have one son, Carlos, Jr.
Of Mexican, Spanish, Greek and Sephardic Jew descent, Sen. Zaffirini developed a keen insight into the richness of diversity and the advantage of insight in multicultural, multilingual settings. At the same time, she also learned how to deal effectively with discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping and chavinism based largely on ethnicity and gender, but also on geography and religion. Accordingly, she hs been a trailblazer for equal opportunity and social justice.
In 1986 she became the first Hispanic woman Texas senator. Elected initially from a field of four Democrats and two Republicans (all men) she has been reelected with landslide victories over 10 men in 9 elections since then. She was the first woman to chair a major Senate committee in 20 years and the first Hispanic woman to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate and as governor for a day.
Her legislative accomplishments are legendary She has a 100 percent voting record in the Texas Senate, having cast more than 51,000 consecutive votes – a unique record nationwide. She has passed 795 bills and 52 substantive resolutions, including one recognizing PWT, and cosponsored and passed another 400 bills. Her reputation as the hardest working member of the Texas legislature is unchallenged.
As the owner of Zaffirini Communications, she is equally accomplished as an award winning communications specialist with 13 years of teaching experience, including at the college and university levels. Her professional expertise has been recognized by Press Women of Texas and NFPW with 28 national and 178 statewide awards for her publications, speeches, and PR campaigns.
Sen. Zaffarini has long been recognized as a champion for women. She was named a Texas Woman of the Century by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas and Woman of the Year by the Mexican American Women’s Political Caucus.
She is featured in more than 20 books including Feminists Who Changed America, Texas Women Who dared to be First, and Texas Women of the Century: Inspiring Stories of Great Texas Women.
We are proud to submit Judith Zaffirini as our 2015 Press Women of Texas Communicator of Achievement.