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Frank Torres Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 47

Scope and Contents

The Frank Torres Papers document his contributions as well as those of other members of his distinguished New York “pioneer” family in the legal, political, and religious spheres and their overall service to the community. The papers of Frank Torres fill an important gap in New York City history, particularly in politics and law. They are especially significant for understanding the groundbreaking role played by Frank Torres and his father, Felipe N. Torres in the judiciary. Among the prominent names appearing in the collection are his father, Felipe N. Torres, Congressmen Herman Badillo and Robert García, and former Archbishop of Puerto Rico Roberto O. González.

The bulk of the materials range from 1984-1998. They consist primarily of personal, judicial and administrative documents. Contained are letters, programs, legal briefs, minutes, essays and proposals for community projects, and newspaper clippings. The folders are arranged alphabetically with items in chronological order.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1984-1998
  • Creation: 1917-2000

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Although Frank Torres is best known for his contributions to the judiciary and the legal profession, he is also regarded as an important civic leader and legislator. He served in the State Assembly in 1963 and 1964 representing District Four in the Bronx and was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, where he served from 1986 to 2001.

Judge Torres was born in New York City on January 25, 1928 to Felipe N. Torres, a legendary family court judge and State Assemblyman, and Flérida Medina. He attended New York City public schools and graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in the social sciences at the City College of New York (1946- 1951) and then went on to St. John’s University Law School from 1951-1955. Torres also attended the Manhattan School of Music where he studied the violin.

While at St. John’s Law School, he worked as a counselor for the Children’s Shelter and as an investigator and interviewer for the Department of Welfare of the City of New York (1952-1956). His pre- bench legal experience also included working as an interpreter and as a law clerk in both the civil and criminal courts (1956-1957).

On April 1, 1957 he was admitted to the Bar in New York in the Appellate Division First Department. From 1958-1962 he worked as an assistant district attorney under Daniel Sullivan and Isidore Dollinger. In 1962 in opposition to the Democratic organization of the Bronx, he ran as an independent candidate for the New York State Assembly and became the only independent Bronx county candidate to win in that year’s primary. He succeeded his father, Felipe N. Torres, in the fourth district in the Bronx. Once in the Assembly, Frank Torres introduced bills in the areas of education, social welfare, civil rights and labor. His strong support for a bill to eliminate the English literacy exam for voters stands out in his record. He also introduced legislation requiring law enforcement personnel to take special courses to cultivate a more sensitive posture toward the various minority groups with whom they interact. In 1964 he was defeated in his run for re-election, but he continued to work actively in the electoral campaigns of other Puerto Rican candidates such as Herman Badillo and Robert García.

In the years following his tenure in the State Legislature, Torres dedicated himself for a time to practicing law at the family law firm, Torres and Torres. Alongside his father and his brother Austin, he handled a wide range of civil, commercial, matrimonial and criminal matters. Torres thereafter worked as an administrator in the regional and area offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, leaving after fifteen years as the Director of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunities of the New York area office. Torres’ career as a judge began in 1980 when then Mayor Edward I. Koch appointed him a judge of the family court. From 1985-1986, he served as a judge in the criminal court of the City of New York. Having been appointed an Acting Supreme Court Justice in 1985, he then ran successfully for that position in the general election of November 3, 1987. In January 1988, he was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York for the Twelfth Judicial District.

Throughout his life and professional career, Torres has been committed to the idea that the presence of minorities in our society should be reflected in the composition of professionals in the law. In support of this idea, Torres consistently advocated the inclusion of minorities in all careers involving law in our society. The papers included in this collection richly document his activities and contributions to this end.

In 1958, Torres and his wife Yolanda Iola Márquez founded the Pamela C. Torres Day Care Center, named after a daughter who died of leukemia in infancy. The Center was created to provide day care services for the children of poor families in the Bronx. While serving as President of the Board of Directors, Torres oversaw the carrying out of the Center’s mission, which was to provide day care services for the children of poor families in the Bronx. Under Mayor John Lindsay, Torres was a member of the New York City Anti- Poverty Council and was active in numerous other local and national organizations such as the New York Archdiocese Advisory Council of Hispanic Pastoral Affairs, the NAACP, the Urban League of New York, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Council on Adoptable Children, and the Puerto Rican Board of Guardians, among others. It should also be noted that his experience in community development included his participation in the establishment of the Ponce de Leon Federal Savings Bank, the first banking institution of the Hispanic population in New York City. He served as its first counsel.

As a leader and advocate in the legal pofession and the judiciary, Torres was a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the New York State Bar Association, the Bronx Black Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the American Judges Association. The documents in his collection give evidence of his consistent advocacy for greater inclusion of Hispanics in the judiciary, a topic about which he wrote and spoke frequently. Among his published articles are: “Sharing the Wealth: What Minorities Can Do to Help Themselves” (Bar Leader, 1989), “The Need for Hispanic Federal Judges” (New York Law Journal, 1990) and “Opening the Courthouse Door” (New York Law Journal, 1993)

In 1991, the National Bar Association honored Frank Torres with the Wiley T. Branton Award for “leadership on the cutting edge of law for civil, social, and economic justice.” He was also awarded the Bartolomé de las Casas Award in 1990, named after a Dominican friar, who, while accompanying the first European invaders of this hemisphere, advocated through his writings and actions for the rights of the indigenous populations. The Torres family holds a special place in New York Puerto Rican history and was designated Model Family of the Year in 1983 by the Desfile Puertorriqueño on its 25th anniversary.


15.65 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Supreme Court Judge, civic leader and legislator. Collection consists primarily of biographical, judicial and administrative documents. Contained are letters, programs, legal briefs, minutes, essays and proposals for community projects, newspaper clippings, and information about civic, religious, and advocacy organizations.


The collection is divided into the following

I. Personal and Biographical Information II. The Torres Family III. Correspondence IV. Writings V. Judicial Functions VI. Organizations VII. Subject Files VIII. Clippings IX. Photographs X. Artifacts

Other Finding Aids

English/Spanish bilingual finding aid available (see External Documents).

Other version of this finding aid was created as part of Ventana Al Pasado: Building a Latino/Hispanic Online Research Collection. The New York State Archives and Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños received funding for this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Custodial History

Gift of Frank Torres.

Related Materials

Related collections in the repository are the papers of Oscar García Rivera, the first Puerto Rican elected to public office in the U.S. and the papers of legislator and judge, Felipe N. Torres.

Separated Materials

Pamphlets were transferred to the Centro Library.

Frank Torres Papers
Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González, Myrna Tinoco and Noelia Urbano
March 2003
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Revision Statements

  • 2005: Guide reviewed and actualized by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Repository

Silberman Building, Hunter College
2180 Third Ave. Rm. 122
New York New York 10065

About the Collections

Our collections consist of personal papers from prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Our largest collection, the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States (OGPRUS) Records, measures approximately 2,900 cubic feet and contains an extraordinary amount of information regarding Puerto Rican migrants and the government institutions established to assist them. The collections date from the 1890s to the present, and document Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast, Midwest, Florida, California and Hawaii.