Former New Mexico State Senator C.B. Trujillo died Monday, Nov. 20, at Holy Cross Hospital. He was 85.
While owner of the State Farm Insurance company in Taos, he served in the state Senate from 1966 until 1980, rising to the post of Senate majority leader and becoming one of the most powerful men in the Legislature.
The son of Luís Ambrosio Trujillo, a New Mexico legislator, and Crecensia Grace Gonzáles Trujillo, Carlos Benito was born March 16, 1932, in Topeka, Kan., where his parents had moved from New Mexico to work on a farm during the Great Depression.
The family soon returned to Taos, where Trujillo attended school before enrolling at New Mexico Highlands University. Trujillo graduated from Highlands in 1956, later becoming the recipient of the university’s first Distinguished Alumni Award. A U.S. Navy veteran, Trujillo also taught school in Pecos, where he was head basketball coach, and in Illinois, before acquiring the State Farm insurance agency in Taos in 1962. He took over the insurance agency from Joe Romero, who also had served in the state Legislature.
In 1966, voters elected Trujillo to the state Senate, representing Taos, Mora and parts of San Miguel County. Fellow senators later elected him senate majority leader.
An editorial in the Jan. 23, 1975, Taos News said: “In his new position of power as majority leader — with vast influence on the handling and priority of every bill introduced — ‘C.B.’ could be even more influential for projects of benefit to the three northern counties. But it must be remembered that with his new stature as majority leader he must, in all good conscience, work for the best interests of New Mexico as a whole. We’re sure Trujillo will do just that. However, we suspect that the northern counties won’t get hurt in the process.”
In fact, Trujillo found funds for constructing Taos Junior High, Questa High and gyms in Wagon Mound, Peñasco and Ojo Caliente. He was instrumental in bringing a State Police district headquarters to Taos.
“I’d have to say, he got what he wanted,” said Jamie Koch, a former state representative from Santa Fe who served in the Legislature with Trujillo.
Former Taos state Rep. Bobby Duran also served with him: “He was really smart. He knew his way around politics. He knew his way around government issues.”
Trujillo was one of the senators who supported the state’s educational funding formula, which required that school districts from poorer areas of the state be treated equitably.
A conservative Democrat, he worked well with Republicans to manage the state’s finances. “He cared about public dollars. He was careful about spending public money,” said Paula Tackett, former director of the state’s legislative council service.
As a conservative, he was opposed to the state’s equal rights amendment for women and several times voted against collective bargaining.
Nor was he a fan of outsiders who disturbed the peace of rural New Mexico. According to a report by the office of the New Mexico state historian, armed members of a motorcycle gang threatened residents in Questa in 1978. A shootout ensued. Trujillo supported his Questa constituents, saying their response was “the only American reaction you can take when you see your community destroyed.”
A 1980 story in the Washington Post related that when Woodstock concert promoter offered Mora County $1 million to host “another mammoth rock concert and be-in,” Trujillo and many others spoke against the concert at a county commission meeting. The meeting ended up in a “bottle throwing melee,” causing state police to escort the promoter out of town.
In 1980, Trujillo was defeated in the Democratic primary by Francisco “El Comanche” Gonzales, a more liberal candidate. In 1992, he ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Carlos Cisneros.
Trujillo continued to manage his insurance company until 2002, when he turned it over after 40 years to Wanda Lucero. He had been her mentor for many years; when she was elected to the Taos School Board, Trujillo gave her sound advice, telling her she would be faced with difficult decisions and that she would need “guiding principles” so that she could hold steadfast to her beliefs.
“Everything I am, and everything I have, I owe to this man,” Lucero said. “It is a tremendous loss to his family and for this community.”
In retirement, Trujillo became a cattle rancher, using the brand the Rocking T, with property in Tres Piedras, Black Lake and Trementina. He was devoted in caring for his mother until her death in 1996. He became a donor to the Taos Community Foundation and Holy Cross Hospital.
He and his longtime companion, Anna Martínez, worked on many Taos County social programs together.
Trujillo is survived by his sons, Steve, Michael and Jeff Trujillo and their families; Martínez and her children, Henrietta Christmas, Karen Martínez and Antonio Martínez; his brothers, Levi and Luís; his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Felix; and his oldest son, Martin Victor.
A rosary will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, (Nov. 27), at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Taos. The Memorial Mass will be 10 a.m. Tuesday, (Nov. 28), also at Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by burial at Sierra Vista Cemetery.
The family of C.B. Trujillo ask that memorial contributions be directed to Taos Community Foundation in his name, P.O. Box 1925, 115 La Posta Road, Suite A, Taos, N.M. 87571 or taoscf.org.