Dec. 22, 2003 - Hector L. Cintron, a native Crucian who made his mark in the Virgin Islands first in baseball and then in politics, died at his home Saturday on St. Croix.
He served six terms in the V.I. Legislature, five of them successively in the 1970s and the fifth in 1985-87.
He was elected on the Republican Party ticket for his first three terms in office, but ran for his fourth term as an independent, or "No Party," candidate. Still the St. Croix district's top vote getter, he became the first person elected to the modern-day Legislature without party affiliation.
From early on Cintron was an advocate of greater autonomy for St. Croix, bemoaning its "second-class status." He advanced legislative initiatives for reapportionment, separate budgets, direct popular election of the Senate president and the concept of a Virgin Islands presidential primary.
As a young man, Cintron was a well-known baseball player who at one time was considered a prospect for the professional leagues. He was the catcher on the popular local team the Lobos, which had future governor Juan F. Luis as a pitcher.
Cintron was first elected to the Senate in 1970 as part of a Republican team led by Melvin H. Evans, the incumbent appointive governor who campaigned successfully to become the territory's first elected chief of state.
Four years later, Cintron was the only Republican senator to survive an Independent Citizens Movement surge as Cyril E. King was swept into office as governor. In that term, Cintron held the balance of power in the Senate, which was evenly split with seven Democrats and seven ICM members.
Cintron successfully ran for re-election to the Legislature in 1976 as a "No Party" candidate, after having won a court case against the Board of Elections that allowed him to run without party affiliation. The idea found favor with other political aspirants, and two years later it was as an independent, not an ICM member, that Juan F. Luis won his first race for governor
In 1980, after having decided not to seek a sixth Senate term, Cintron changed his mind weeks before the election and mounted a nearly successful write-in campaign. Two years later, he ran for governor in a five-way race, finishing last behind Luis, Lt. Gov. Henry Millin, Sen. Ruby M. Rouss and Derek Hodge.
Elected to his sixth Senate term in 1984, Cintron came under fire by the news media for his frequent absences and the attention he was giving to his food wholesale and retail business. In response he aired TV commercials touting his business as the "only place on St. Croix where a senator bags your groceries." He was defeated in 1986 in a bid to return to office.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards recalled Cintron as being "passionate and vociferous in his advocacy for the development of St. Croix" in a release extending condolences on Monday. "A populist and a committed servant to the territory, he marched to the beat of his own drum yet was repeatedly called on to serve as a legislator .... a testament that he fulfilled the needs of many in the Hispanic community and territorywide," Richards said.
Cintron's survivors include a son, Hector Jr.; a daughter; and a brother, Clemente.
Thomas/Hyll Memorial Chapel is in charge of arrangements. Cremation is planned and there will be no funeral service, a staff person said. A memorial service has tentatively been scheduled for Jan. 2 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Frederiksted.