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TATANGELO, ALDO J., SR.

TATANGELO, ALDO J., SR. (1913–2008). Aldo J. Tatangelo, businessman and mayor of Laredo, was born in the Italian community of Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, on September 16, 1913. He was the son of Nicola and Benedetta Tatangelo, Italian immigrants who had arrived in the United States in 1910. Aldo was one of five children. His father was a jeweler. After dropping out of high school in 1929, Tantangelo went to work for his father and attended night school. He eventually earned a degree from Bryant & Stratton College in Laredo and worked for his father’s jewelry manufacturing company, Standard Ring and Novelty Company, in Cranston, Rhode Island. In 1943, during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served until 1945. Around this time he married Alice Natali DeLong. They had three children. 

After the war, Tatangelo established Atlantic Optical Products, a sunglasses factory, in Providence, Rhode Island. The business quickly prospered, and operations increased to production of 5,000 pairs of sunglasses per day. In 1949 Tatangelo, with a partner, opened a branch of the company in Mexico City. Some years later, he and his family moved to Mexico City so that he could supervise operations there. 

Upon the death of his mother in 1963, Tatangelo sold his interest in the business and moved back to the United States. He settled in the border city of Laredo, Texas, and established a jewelry manufacturing and optical products enterprise on both sides of the border. Tatangelo took an interest in the civic affairs of his new home. In 1973 he spearheaded efforts to build a volunteer fire station in Laredo. His involvement soon turned to politics. He was one of the first to successfully challenge the corrupt political machine led by Mayor J. C. “Pepe” Martin, Jr., which had ruled Laredo for eighty-four years. Tatangelo was elected mayor of Laredo and served from 1978 to 1990. He was regarded by the community as a man who was honest, who had a progressive vision for the city, and whose heart was as big as his colorful personality. He was particularly popular in the poorer neighborhoods of Laredo. 

As mayor, Tatangelo had a paternalistic view of the city and saw the citizens as if they were his own family. He modernized the city and brought it back from years of neglect. For example, most streets in Laredo were paved under Tatangelo’s administration. He oversaw comprehensive public service projects such as drainage, introduced a pension system for public workers, and established departments for comptroller, parks and recreation, community development and engineering, and planning and zoning. The Public Works Department was also overhauled and stopped the practice of sending out equipment and men to perform work on private ranches. In 1988 Tatangelo was among a group of South Texas mayors who traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with President Ronald Reagan to discuss border issues.

Mayor Tantangelo, a Catholic, was very much loved throughout his tenure. He is perhaps best remembered for helping to end the eighty-four-year rule of Laredo and Webb County by the Independent Club (Partido Viejo). In 2000 he established the Aldo Tatangelo Endowed Scholarship in Public Administration at Texas A&M International University. Tatangelo died on March 7, 2008, and at the time of his death was survived by his sister Gilda; children Aldo Jr., Linda McKinney, and Robert; and grandchildren Matthew, Nicole, and Laura. He was buried in the Cavalry Catholic Cemetery in Laredo. Tatangelo Parkway in Laredo was named in his honor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Laredo Morning Times, September 22, 2003; June 12, 2004; March 11, 26, 2008. New York Times, July 4, 1985. Aldo Tatangelo Archive, Special Collections & Archives, Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, Texas A&M International University.

José R. Pérez

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Handbook of Texas Online, José R. Pérez, "Tatangelo, Aldo J., Sr. ," accessed December 11, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftata.

Uploaded on August 4, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.