The first California-born governor, Romualdo Pacheco was born in Santa Barbara before California was admitted to the Union as a state. Pacheco was the first governor of Mexican ancestry. At age seven, Pacheco was sent to school in Honolulu, Hawaii for five years. He attended Oahu Charity School, which was run by Andrew Johnson and his wife, friends of Pacheco’s stepfather.
At 15, Pacheco worked as an officer on his stepfather’s merchant ships. During the Mexican War Pacheco’s ship, which flew the Mexican flag, was captured by the U.S.S. Cyane. He was permitted to sail into San Francisco, where his vessel was captured again. He was allowed to leave after he pledged his allegiance to the United States. In 1848, Pacheco began working on his parents’ large estates. He was skilled at raising animal stock.
Pacheco started his career in politics in 1854, when he was elected as San Luis Obispo County judge–a post he held for four years. In 1857, he was elected to the California Senate was re-elected in 1861. Pacheco also served as California’s state treasurer from 1863 to 1866. Pacheco returned to the State Senate in 1869 in a contested election. His opponent, Patrick Murphy, asserted that Pacheco was not a qualified elector for the district. The Senate Committee on Elections investigated and found Murphy’s allegations to be without merit.
In 1871, Pacheco was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor. He assumed the office of the governor when Governor Newton Booth resigned in 1875. He served as governor for approximately ten months and left office on December 9, 1875, without accomplishing anything of real substance.
In his first run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1877, Pacheco won by one vote. His opponent, Peter D. Wigginton, contested the results. Pacheco was unseated and his seat was restored to his opponent. Pacheco had a successful run for the House of Representatives in 1879 and served in Congress until 1883.
In 1890, President Harrison appointed Pacheco as U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central America, a position he held from 1891 until 1893. Afterwards, Pacheco moved to San Francisco where he worked in the brokerage business. Pacheco then retired and lived the remainder of his life in Oakland, CA. He died from Bright’s disease on January 23, 1899.