Carmen Ramirez
Carmen Ramirez

Part of the legacy of former Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez can be found in the thank you notes from the school classrooms she visited.

“Laws and rights are very important to me. Especially the littering one,” wrote one student. “And I was impressed an immigrant without documents can become a lawyer on (the) Supreme Court. That gives me hope that someday maybe I’ll become a lawyer.”

Another child wrote: “Thank you for coming and telling us what your job is. I think lawyers are cool. I always wanted to be a lawyer, so I’m going to stay in school and become one.”

And: “That’s cool that you can talk Spanish.”

The children’s letters are included among the 15 boxes of documents, planners, diaries, proclamations, and even favorite cartoons collected by Ramirez during 45 years of service before her life was cut short in a pedestrian accident on Aug.12, 2022.

Colorful hand-drawn thank you notes from kids, with lots of hearts and flowers, are among archive items donated to CSUCI.
Colorful hand-drawn thank you notes from kids, with lots of hearts and flowers, are among archive items donated to CSUCI. Credit: Courtesy phot

Ramirez’s husband Roy Prince, along with friends and family organized the archives and donated them to CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) this summer.

Prince believes CSUCI is the ideal place for the archives as she worked from the very beginning to advocate to establish a CSU campus in Ventura County.

“I feel certain she would be delighted to have her archives at CSU Channel Islands,” Prince said. “She worked with Dr. Rush and others who understood the importance of higher education for the people of Ventura County and Oxnard.

“I am grateful to the university for honoring Carmen Ramirez, and the kindness the university has extended towards myself and Carmen’s family and friends.”

According to CSUCI President Richard Yao, having the archives is a privilege, an honor, and responsibility for the entire campus.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to play a part in ensuring that Carmen’s legacy lives on, making it available for the education and research of current and future generations of students and faculty, and for informing the continuing work in our region and beyond toward environmental and social justice,” Yao said.

University archivist Evelyn Taylor is in the process of going through all the boxes of personal appointment books and memos dating back to 1977. They include handwritten notes on her numerous fights for social justice, such as for immigrants, the environment and farm workers.

“She grew up in Pico Rivera and went to Loyola Law School, but she didn’t take that law degree and go work for a big firm,” Taylor said. “She went to work in legal aid where she could help people who really needed help.”

Monica Pereira, John Spoor Broome Library head of collection and resource management, believes the collection detailing Ramirez’s legacy will serve as an inspiration to students and provide research material for both faculty and students.

Ramirez served 10 years on the Oxnard City Council before winning a seat on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, becoming the first Latina in county history to be elected supervisor.

“When you see how hard somebody like Carmen has worked to make life better for everyone, it’s inspiring,” Pereira said. “The easy path is to say, ‘I’ll just make life easier for myself,’ but Carmen never took the easy path and worked to make life better for others.”

According to Ramirez’s dear friend, fellow attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz, Ramirez was “the right kind of public servant” who held fast to her integrity.

“She would have been a superior court judge, but she was opposed to the death penalty,” Macri-Ortiz said. “Then-Governor Gray Davis told her to stand down with her opinion and she wouldn’t. She didn’t do what was easy or comfortable. She held onto her values her entire life.”

Taylor said she hopes to have the collection organized into a compelling display by October 2024.

“The contributions Carmen Ramirez made should never be forgotten,” said Curtis Asher, interim dean of the library. “And we are very grateful we have been entrusted to help ensure her legacy is preserved.”