Article reprinted with permission of Mabel E. Brown,
© August 1966 Bits and Pieces. Vol.2, No. 5...
TENO RONCALIO - U. S. CONGRESSMAN FROM WYOMING
by Mabel E. Brown
The story of Teno Roncalio, Wyoming’s lone Representative in Congress, reads like a Horatio Alger, Jr. “Story For Boys”. Teno was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming, March 23, 1916. His parents were Italian immigrants. His father, Frank Roncaglio was a coal miner. In order to provide his family with more of the good things of life, Frank Roncaglio also salvaged and sold junk. Teno was one of a family of nine children.
Teno Roncalio was christened Celeste Domenico Roncaglio. The nickname “Teno” was given him by his schoolmates in Rock Springs. Roncaglio was changed to Roncalio because it is so much easier to say upon first sight. The pronunciation is the same. Ron-call-io.
Legend has it (and the story of Teno is a legend in his home town) that Teno obtained his first job, operating a push cart at the age of five years. The next year he took over a shoe shine stand in a local barber shop. By the time he was sixteen years old, Teno had passed the Wyoming Barber Board of Examiners and was the holder of a Journeyman Barber’s Union card.
Teno worked in the barber shop throughout his high school years but after graduation went to work on the Rock Springs Rocket as a combination reporter and advertising salesman. For six years Teno worked for the newspaper, gaining much valuable experience. In 1938 he entered the University of Wyoming as a Journalism and Pre-Law student. To help out with expenses, Teno and a Rock Springs buddy, Frank Larrabaster, made stencil duplicates of basketball schedules and sold advertising to go with them.
During his years at the University, Teno ran a snack bar in a dormitory, waited tables and washed dishes at Annie Moore’s boarding house, tended furnace, shoveled snow and scrubbed “acres” of floors. Any job was a good job as long as it helped pay the college expense.
Teno was a great admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His entrance into politics was a resuit of this admiration. He joined the Young Democrats of Laramie and was elected to an office. He soon was a delegate to the Wyoming State Convention of Young Democrats.
During his second year at the University Teno ran for and was elected to the Student Body Presidency. He was also business manager for the University’s weekly newspaper The Branding Iron. In 1941, Teno left the University to work for Joseph C. O’Mahoney in Washington, D. C. He en- rolled in Catholic University as a law student, attending night classes and working days.
In 1942 he resigned as Research Clerk in the Senate and enlisted in the United States Infantry. He requested overseas duty and was sent to North Africa with the First Infantry Division in March of 1943. He spent the remaining thirty-three months of World War II in the 18th Infantry Regiment, First Division, participating in the beach head invasion at Gela, Sicily on July 10, 1943, and at Omaha Beach, June 1944. Teno also saw action in seven campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, Central Europe and Germany and was awarded the Silver Star for gal- lantry in action. He was discharged as a Captain, in 1945. The war over, Teno returned to the University at Laramie, Wyoming where he acquired a degree in Law. In 1949, Teno was admitted to the practice of law in the State of Wyoming.
Between the years of 1949 and 1961, Teno was engaged in a variety of pursuits. He practiced law in Cheyenne serving as a prosecutor. He edited the Wyoming Labor Journal, helped found several banks, including the Cheyenne National at Cheyenne, and was a motion picture exhibitor in two southern Wyoming towns. In 1956, Teno was admitted to practice in the Federal Courts and became president of the Laramie County Bar Association.
In 1957, Roncalio was elected Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. In 1959, at a dinner in honor of the then Senator John F. Kennedy, Teno said that if the Democratic party leaders were to have courage enough to nominate Kennedy for President, he would be elected and would give America the leadership which would match the challenge of our times.
Teno was one of Kennedy’s most enthusiastic backers and after he was elected to the Presidency, Mr. Kennedy rewarded his efforts with an appointment as Chairman of the United States Section of the International Commission (U. S. and Canada). Teno was also appointed a member of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. He resigned from both positions to become a candidate for U. S. Representative from Wyoming. In 1964, he was elected to that office, unseating his opponent, the veteran Republican legislator, William Henry Harrison.
The Wyoming Congressman has received not a few honors both at home and in Washington. In 1957, Teno was cited by the B’nai B’rith for Mentorious Service in Human Relations and Advancement of Citizen Responsibility. In 1965, he was named “outstanding Freshman Congressman” by the Capitol Hill Young Democrats and back home in Wyoming, he was given the title “Tutelary Saint” by the Gottsche Rehabilitation Center in Thermopolis, he was so named because of the service he had rendered to the Center’s development. This year, 1966, Teno was named to lifetime membership in the Officers Candidates Hall of Fame at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Most men begin to slow down a bit when they reach age forty, not so Teno. He learned to ski and to fly after that age. He is considered an excellent skier and holds a multi-engine flying rating. It was also after age forty that Teno married. He and his wife the former Cecelia Waters Domenico have two sons, Teno Frank, 3 years old and John, age two. Teno also has four foster children, Lou, Carol, Joan and Dave Domenico. Teno keeps fit “working out” in the Congressional gymnasium. He enjoys playing tennis, swimming and baseball. Gardening is another of his pleasures and a small greenhouse at his home in Cheyenne affords him many moments of satisfaction.
Mr. Roncalio is a charter member and an organizer of the Family YMCA at Cheyenne, of the Cheyenne Symphony and Concert Association, mem- ber of the Esther Morris Memorial Commission, Southern Rocky Mountain Ski Association, American Bar Association, American Judicature Association and Area President of the Lawyer-Pilots Association
As a former serviceman, Teno is a strong advocate of the furlough rotation. He was one of a Committee of Congressmen who recently visited Viet Nam and reported his findings to the President and to Congress. More than two pages of the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD (House) for July 12, 1966 are devoted to these findings.
In preparing this story of “Teno”, I asked him what he believed to be the most important of his many contributions to Wyoming as Representative, also what he considered the main purpose of his office. Following is his answer:
“It is difficult to try to pick a few highlights from such a busy period in my life. It is difficult to judge what will be of more significance—the legislation I supported that will influence generations to come, or the first steps in developing our resources more fully.
My major aim has been to insure that Wyoming, represented by but one man, has the fullest attention and best possible service. I strive for personal, effective service to every citizen, every community and every segment of the economy on the premises that much can be done here in Washington to assist and encourage the growth of our great Wyoming. For example, my idea to seek unused Hill-Burton hospital construction funds from other states succeeded in bringing in an additional $500,000 for our hospitals—that is the kind of work that pleases me most and is most helpful to Wyoming.”
Whether or not one agrees with Teno depends mainly on what political party he is affiliated with, but everyone agrees that Teno has worked tirelessly and has done a good job according to his convictions. He is today a candidate for the United States Senate, opposing him for that office is Republican Governor Clifford P. Hansen.
NEXT MONTH—I hope to have Governor Hansen’s story.
Source of Information:
Correspondence with Teno Roncalio
A Tribune Profile—Lewis E. Bates, Wyoming State Tribune, 6/l/61.
Teno Roncalio—Wyoming Whirlwind—Red Kelso, Empire Magazine, 4/14/63.
U.S. Congressional Record.
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