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Luis A. Ferré

Luis A. Ferré

Order: 3rd Democratically Elected Governor
Term of Office: January 2, 1969January 2, 1973
Predecessor: Roberto Sánchez Vilella
Successor: Rafael Hernández Colón
Date of Birth: Saturday, February 17, 1904
Place of Birth: Ponce, Puerto Rico
Date of Death: Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Place of Death: San Juan, Puerto Rico
First Lady: Lorencita Ferré
Profession: politician, engineer, industrialist
Political Party: New Progressive Party, Republican
Resident Commissioner: Jorge Luis Córdova (1969-1973)

Don Luis Alberto Ferré Aguayo (February 17, 1904October 21, 2003) was an engineer, industrialist, politician, philanthropist, and a patron of the arts. He was the third democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico from 1969 to 1973, and the founding father of the New Progressive Party which advocates for Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States of America.


Early life

Luis A. Ferré was born in the southern city of Ponce, Puerto Rico on February 17, 1904. Ferre's father, was a Cuban immigrant who founded the company "Porto Rico Iron Works".


He studied Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtaining his bachelor's degree in 1924 and masters degree in 1925, and music at the New England Conservatory of Music. During this time, while living in Boston, Ferré developed an admiration for the "American way of democracy". Family History Ferre's father achieved fortune under the help of the Serralles family founders of Don Q, which is considered Puerto Rico's finest rum.


Upon his return to Puerto Rico, Ferré helped transform his father's company into a successful business which earned him a fortune. In 1948, he acquired "El Dia" a fledgling newspaper. "Empresas Ferré" would later acquire in the 1950s, Puerto Rico Cement and Ponce Cement, which capitalized in the economic boom which Puerto Rico experienced at the time as the result of the ambitious industrialization projects which came with Operation Bootstrap.

Political life

Ferré became active in politics in the 1940's. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1940 and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in 1948.


In 1948, Puerto Ricans where allowed to elect their governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected governor of Puerto Rico, and a movement began which aimed to adopt a commonwealth relationship with the United States of America. In 1951, a referendum was held to decided to whether to approve or not the option granted by the United States Congress to draft Puerto Rico's first constitution. Ferré abstained from participating in the process in which the pro-statehood party to which he belonged favored the 1951 referendum. He believed that the process would mean "an acceptance of a colony and condemn the people to a perpetual condition of second class citizenship". Still, Ferré would later participate in the constitutional assembly created by the referendum which would draft the constitution. In 1952 the Constitution of Puerto Rico was adopted, creating the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. That same year Ferré was elected representative in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives. Ferré ran under the Republican Statehood Party ("Partido Estadista Republicano) and officially assumed his duties as representative on January 11, 1953.

Governor and Senator

Don Luis A. Ferré addressing a crowd
Don Luis A. Ferré addressing a crowd

In 1967, a plebiscite was held to decide if the people of Puerto Rico desired to become an independent nation, a state of the United States of America or continue the commonwealth relation established in 1952. The majority of Puerto Ricans opted for the Commonwealth option (see Puerto Rico status referenda). Disagreement among the current pro-statehood party led Ferré to found the New Progressive Party or PNP.

In the following election in 1968, Ferré ran for Governor of Puerto Rico and won the election by a slight margin. His victory marked the end of Luis Muñoz Marín's Popular Democratic Party hold on the governor's seat which lasted 28 years. Luis A. Ferré governed from 1969 to 1972. His work as governor of Puerto Rico included defending the federal minimum wage and granting workers a Chrismas bonus. He visited Puerto Rican troops in Vietnam. In 1970 his wife, Lorencita, died suddenly. In 1972 he sought re-election for governor of Puerto Rico, but lost to Rafael Hernández Colón (PPD). In 1976, he was elected into the Puerto Rican Senate. Ferré served as president of the Senate on from 1976-1980 and continued serving as senator until 1985.

After serving as governor, Ferré continued to be active in politics, especially representing the United States Republican Party on the island. In 1991, Ferré participated in Congressional hearings in the United States House of Representatives which discussed Puerto Rico's political status.

Renaissance man

Ferré was also a talented pianist who recorded several albums of his piano music. On January 3, 1949 he founded the Ponce Museum of Art , in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The museum initially displayed 71 paintings from his personal collection and today displays over 500 and hundreds of other works. "El Centro de Bellas Artes", the center for performing arts in San Juan, Puerto Rico also bears his name as well as the freeway connecting San Juan, Puerto Rico and Ponce, Puerto Rico. He also assisted in the creation of the Casals Festival y Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music.

His philanthropic deeds and defence for democracy earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 18, 1991.

Death and Legacy

On September 29, 2003, Ferré was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection and underwent surgery for an intestinal blockage on October 1. While in the hospital he developed pneumonia before finally succumbing to respiratory failure on the morning of October 21, 2003. He was 99 years old.

His body laid in state in Puerto Rico's capitol building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then transported to his museum in Ponce, before being taken for a state funeral and burial nearby. His funeral and ceremonies honoring him where attended by numerous politicians, including former U.S. President and friend, George H. W. Bush.

Among the numerous awards that were bestowed on Luis A. Ferré was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The renowned sculptor Tomás Batista was also commissioned to make a bust of Ferré, which is exhibited in the Ponce Museum of Art .

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Last updated: 05-29-2005 10:08:16
Last updated: 08-29-2005 20:24:53