RGV, South Texas PGR
SP5, US Army 1978 - 1982, Reserve 1982 - 1984
Appointed to his judicial seat by former Gov. Mark White in the early 1980s, Salinas was elected to two more terms in the 92nd state District Court before losing his seat in 1996. But Salinas continued to hear cases under an appointment as a visiting judge, where he presided locally and in Corpus Christi over controversial cases that other judges withdrew from or couldn’t fit in their dockets.
Salinas was an authority on criminal cases who was the “complete package” as a judge, said current 92nd state District Judge Ricardo Rodriguez, who counted Salinas as a mentor when he began his legal career.
“From what I saw, he was always fair and impartial, seeking justice for those who went before him and his court, whether it was civil or criminal cases,” Rodriguez said. “He was tough and harsh when he had to be, but at the same time, when he was able to help, he did.”
Born in Mercedes in 1932, Salinas had a wide-ranging career before he became an attorney.
In his youth, he traveled across the South with his parents as a migrant laborer and worked as a shoe shine boy in his hometown of Mercedes, said Robert Salinas, his younger brother. After high school, he joined the Air Force and found a place in a military band that entertained troops throughout the Korean War era.
An accomplished trumpet player, Salinas returned home to serve as a band director and school teacher in La Joya. But with a new interest in the legal profession, Salinas entered law school at the University of Texas at Austin and graduated in 1964.
He served as an assistant district attorney and practiced municipal law in three cities before White appointed him to the judicial seat, one he won outright twice more before he missed a runoff in a three-way race with Edinburg attorney Yolanda Jurado and eventual winner Ed Aparicio.
Robert Salinas, also an attorney, said his older brother was a “strict and stern” judge who was “compassionate when he needed to be.” An eloquent speaker who fired witty responses from the bench at the spur of the moment, Salinas ran a disciplined court, harshly criticizing attorneys who weren’t punctual or asked for unnecessary extensions.
“He believed justice ought to move,” Robert Salinas said, adding that his older brother always promised a fair sentence and a fair trial for those who came before him.
“He used his authority for the good of the people that came before him,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the judiciary is often, ‘You’re sentenced to 20 years.’ He wasn’t a rubber stamp judge.”
That idea led him to advocate for a military-style boot camp at the Homer Salinas Rehabilitation Center in Edinburg that combined counseling, education and discipline to deter first-time offenders from entering the state’s crowded prison system. The program helped the offenders get their GEDs and encouraged many of them to attend college.
But Salinas had passions outside of the courtroom. He continued to play the trumpet, once hosting a charity concert for a Reynosa orphanage. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman who taught his brother how to fly even though he didn’t have an instructor’s license.
A close friend of Salinas, 139th state District Court Judge Bobby Flores said “his fairness was a great quality he had.”
“He treated everybody real fairly,” he said. “He mentored me and a lot of other people who followed in his pattern. He was a guy to emulate.”