Judge Fortunato "Pete" Benavides, age 76, of Austin, Texas, passed away on Friday, May 5, 2023. He is survived by his wife Evelyn (Eveie) Benavides; daughter Amanda Laura Carter and her husband Benjamin, and grandsons Noah and Milo Carter; daughter Adelaide Pilar Benavides; brothers Tony X. Solis, Adán Benavides Jr., Gabriel Benavides and wife Letty; sister Liza Garza and husband Sam; sister-in-law Cathy Solis (wife of Ray); and cousin Dina G. Hinojosa and husband Roy Lee; and many appreciated nieces and nephews. Pete was preceded in death by his infant son Ramon Joseph Benavides, mother Pilar C. Benavides, father Adán Benavides, and uncle and "Dad" Ramón G. Cavazos; sister Mary Lou Lara and husband Pete; and brothers John Lee Solis and wife Mary; Joe M. Solis and wife Minerva; Ray E. Solis; sister-in-law Edith Pearl Solis (wife of Tony); aunts Eva B. Gorena and husband Humberto, and Inés B. Leal and husband Pete; cousins Minerva Gorena and Irma Leal Gutierrez and husband Eugenio.
Pete was born on February 3, 1947, in Mission, Texas, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but grew up in neighboring McAllen. On his paternal side, he was a direct descendant of Captain Francisco Benavides, born in the Canary Islands, and on the maternal side, he was a direct descendant of Captain Juan Cavazos del Campo, who like Benavides, was in the second wave of colonizers of Monterrey and Cerralvo, Nuevo León, arriving in the 1620s. Later descendants of Juan Cavazos would be among the founders of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in the 1740s. Members of these latter families would demarcate the grazing and farmlands of southern Texas along the margins of the Rio Grande.
Pete excelled in several sports, especially basketball. He was gregarious and greatly admired. His superb memory was already evident and became a lifelong trait extending to lyrics in all genres of music and whose renditions were highly entertaining. After graduation from McAllen Senior High School in 1965, he received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Houston in 1968 and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center in 1972.
The following summary of Pete's judicial service is taken liberally from the dedicatory page of "The 2022 Fifth Circuit Judicial Conference" program written by Priscilla Richman, Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court. By then, Pete had attained the position of Senior United States Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
Judge Benavides began his career as a litigator in private practice in McAllen, but only five years after receiving his law degree, he began his judicial career with his appointment as a judge on a County Court at Law for Hidalgo County, Texas. He served on that bench for two years and then returned to private practice for two years. Pete was elected judge of the Hidalgo County 92nd District Court in 1981, and served for three years until 1984, when Texas Governor Mark White appointed him as a Justice on the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, which was based in Corpus Christi. Then Justice Benavides was elected at the next general election to retain that position and served seven years, until 1991, when Governor Ann Richards appointed him to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’s court of last resort for criminal matters.
Tom Phillips, who was then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, selected Pete to serve by special appointment to numerous Texas state courts. Pete briefly returned to private practice as a partner in the McAllen law firm of Atlas & Hall from 1993 to 1994, until he was appointed as a Judge on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1994. In addition to his judicial service, Judge Benavides was a member of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission from 1983 to 1989. He established a center for troubled teens, the Ramiro H. Guerra Youth Village, a residential facility in Weslaco for male juvenile offenders. His work with the center led President Bill Clinton to name Pete one of 53 “Faces of Hope” in 1993.
In 1994, when President Clinton nominated Judge Benavides to serve on the Fifth Circuit, President Clinton’s office issued a statement, noting that Judge Benavides “has been praised by both prosecutors and defense attorneys for his work in Texas” and “is often applauded for his compassion and fair-mindedness.” During the nomination process, a Senator asked Judge Benavides what in his background made him sensitive to those less fortunate. Judge Benavides responded: “Well, we can start probably with my father, who was born in Mexico and came to this country to work and fought in World War II and was wounded. It makes it very difficult to forget your roots when you are still so close to the ground.”
In 2022, Chief Judge Priscilla Richman of the Fifth Circuit Court noted that "Judge Benavides has recounted rich, sometimes poignant, often humorous, personal and professional experiences, as anyone who has spent even a short time conversing with him can attest, including judges, countless law clerks from his and other judges’ chambers, and other court personnel. It is a privilege to know him. We have all benefitted greatly from his experiences and perspectives and his positive, though incisive, outlook."
Judge Benavides was an active Fifth Circuit judge for eighteen years. During that time, he served numerous terms as a member of the Judicial Council of the Fifth Circuit. He has also served as a member on Committees of the United States Judicial Conference, including the Committee on International Judicial Relations and the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System.
In 2012, Judge Benavides assumed senior status. In the opinion of Chief Judge Richman, Pete "continued his excellent work for the court and also shared his wisdom and acumen with the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, sitting as a visiting judge several times over the years. During his twenty-five years on the Fifth Circuit, Judge Benavides authored more than 2000 opinions. During his tenure as a state judge, Judge Benavides authored over 500 opinions. Judge Benavides was known for his cogent opinions in which he faithfully applied precedent and for his ability to make the most complex case understandable."
Graveside services and interment will be Friday, May 19, 2023, at 11:00 A.M. at the Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota St., Austin, Texas. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Weed Corley Fish Funeral Homes, Austin, Texas. The service will be live streamed. [Livestream Link: https://view.yololiv.com/live/1035883642980663296]
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations in Pete’s name to a charity of your choice.