Jimmy Gurulé: 1951—: Prosecutor, Law Professor
Heavily Influenced By Maternal Role Models
Gurulé (pronounced gur-ooh-LAY) was born June 14, 1951, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Rita (Cabrera) and George Gurulé. His father was from New Mexico, where the Gurulé bloodline could be traced back 300 years. The Gurulés were one of the original families to settle the areas of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Gurulé's parents divorced when he was young, and he grew up splitting his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his father lived, and Salt Lake City, Utah, where his mother's family lived. To make ends meet, Gurulé's mother worked two jobs. Though she spent her days at a telephone company and her nights working as a waitress, she dedicated her free time to her son and became a driving influence in Gurulé's life. Neither of Gurulé's parents graduated from high school, but they recognized the merits of an education and believed that hard work would take you places. "My mother was a strong force in my life," Gurulé said in an interview with Contemporary Hispanic Biography (CHB). "She always stressed to me that you could accomplish great things if you worked hard."
In 1969 Gurulé graduated from Murray High School in Murray, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, and entered the University of Utah, earning a bachelor's degree in 1974. Next, he enrolled in law school. Gurulé recalled that he wanted to study law because he had an idealistic notion—which he still possesses today—that lawyers are the instruments of justice in our society. Back then, Gurulé saw lawyers as the "crusaders" who would help those victimized by crime, society, the government, or large corporations. He told CHB, "I believed then that a training in the law and an understanding of the law would provide me with the training and tools needed to advocate and defend the rights of the disadvantaged—the victims of society."
But before he could advocate for others, Gurulé had to learn to advocate for himself. As one of only two Hispanics in his class at the University of Utah College of Law, Gurulé felt like an outsider. Whenever he was down, his grandmother, Frances "Pancha" Yanez-Gonzalez, pulled him back up. Growing up, Gurulé spent a great deal of time under Pancha's care. She spoke to him in Spanish and instilled in him an appreciation for his culture as a Latino. Pancha spent her life as a migrant worker, picking sugar beets in fields across Utah and Idaho. In the Hispanic district in Salt Lake City where she lived, her home served as the social center of the neighborhood. Gurulé remembered that his grandmother's kitchen was always filled with neighbors sitting around, seeking advice and help. From his grandmother, Gurulé learned the virtues of helping others.
As Gurulé told Notre Dame Magazine, "She was a saint, one of the wisest people I ever met, wiser certainly than the vast majority of judges I've appeared before. …she's the most upbeat person I've ever known, someone who had very little material wealth but who was determined to always, always leave you feeling upbeat and positive whenever you went for a visit." Whenever Gurulé expressed doubt or frustration, Pancha invited him over and after a session of coffee and counseling, he would leave feeling better, "like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders."
- Jimmy Gurulé: 1951—: Prosecutor, Law Professor - Developed An Interest In Criminal Law
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