Native Texan Renato Ramirez, South Texas IBC Bank’s chief executive officer, is no stranger to the struggles of the most vulnerable groups in our community. Born in Zapata in 1940, then a small rural town in the Rio Grande border, Ramirez has grown up close to the issues that Tejanos face.
Ramirez’s parents owned and ran an automotive shop in Zapata, and his grandparents had a ranch that harvested melons, tomatoes, onions and hay. He recalls his father’s work dressing up the eight-mile bridging road to Ciudad Guerrero on the other side of the river without much care for using county equipment on the Mexico side. Ramirez remembers Ciudad Guerrero and Zapata being one community back in the day. Flooding after the construction of Falcon Lake in Zapata led the whole town to move four miles east of the river. The small town’s schools were not college accredited back then and graduates had to take a test for college admission. That’s when the Ramirez family decided to move to Laredo for better educational opportunities.
Renato Ramirez obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, a master of business administration at The University of Texas at Austin and a doctorate in finance and economics at the University of Tennessee. His financial management teaching jobs led him to a career in banking.
“Over the past 40 years, I have enjoyed serving communities in rural Texas as well as in Mexico,” Ramirez states. “In 1983, I accepted an offer to become the CEO of a start-up in Zapata. The expectation was that we could grow the bank to $75 to $100 million asset base. The next 33 years, we grew the bank to over $500 million and earned over $100 million.”
Ramirez has dedicated many years of his life and career to the recognition of Tejanos in our state’s culture and history. He is one, if not the most, valuable member of the team that made the 12-year journey to build The Tejano Monument on the front lawn of the Capitol grounds a reality in 2012.
In the early 2000s, Ramirez joined the board of the Texas Civil Rights Project, an organization that uses legal advocacy to empower Texas communities and create policy change. He recalls the dismantling of the Texas Youth Commission due to children abuse as one of TCRP’s biggest accomplishments. “That was a good battle,” he said. “Many others, such as family abuse, wage theft, voting rights, abusive law enforcement agents, and many others need to be challenged.”
This year’s 26th Annual Bill of Rights Dinner, TCRP’s major fundraising event that celebrates the accomplishments of the year, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 10. An important component of this annual ceremony is the Renato Ramirez Community Empowerment Award, which recognizes notable members of the private sector for their commitment to community empowerment and a fairer and just society.
The 2016 award recipient is Alamo Drafthouse Founder and CEO Tim League. League and his team at the Alamo Drafthouse partnered with the League of Women Voters and the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant’s office to find new and innovative ways to register voters and encourage civic participation. The initiative included donating space and resources for voter registration and sponsoring a PSA contest for high school students.
Other event special guests will include James C. Harrington Social Justice Award Honoree Burt Neuborne and TCRP Rising Leader Award Honoree Nik Sallie Franklin.
“[TCRP] relies on the good heart of our constituents to get funded,” Ramirez states. “I wish more people would understand that the work of the TCRP is very important to the less fortunate.”
For ticket information and further details, please visit texascivilrightsproject.org.