Special Reports

Adair Margo: El Paso's most prominent First Lady

Adair Margo Special Report

EL PASO, Texas - Dee Margo was sworn in as El Paso mayor last week with his wife, Adair Margo, by his side, as she's been for more than 40 years.

El Paso's First Lady is a wife, mother, grandmother, but she is also already a prominent figure in the community thanks to her decades-long work with artists and dignitaries at the national and international level.

The wives of El Paso's mayors have generally focused on service projects or, while accompanying their husbands at public events, have largely stayed out of the limelight. Adair Margo may be the first El Paso First Lady who is already a public figure, and said she is proud to stand by her husband in his role as El Paso mayor.

"(Dee) is a fine, noble man. I'm passionate about my husband,  who is very good at governance. He's a master at it," Adair said. They complement each other, she said. "He brings order. I always say he brings order to me. I bring chaos and he brings order."

EXCLUSIVE WEB CONTENT: Adair Margo on art, dignitaries, Laura Bush and Duranguito

The First Lady said she is the one who encouraged Dee to run for mayor and laughed when she said, "I love the idea of being First Lady of El Paso."

Dee and Adair met at Vanderbilt University, where she was a math major, but her love of art led her to switch her major to Art History.

Adair eventually came back home to El Paso and did a Master's thesis on the missions in Juarez, and then she fell in love again.

"I think the scales fell off my eyes on the richness that was here," she said as she explained she had to leave home to appreciate the treasures of the Borderland.

Adair has spent decades sharing that experience with others. In 2008, she received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George W. Bush for strengthening international relationships from Mexico to China.

EXCLUSIVE WEB CONTENT: Adair Margo: A Life in the Arts (slideshow)

She has also introduced dignitaries from the U.S. and Mexico to the border, inspired by John Houser's giant Equestrian statue by the airport.

"I remember seeing the pieces in a hangar out at the airport and I took Jose Cisneros -- Tom Lea was already dead -- and I remember saying, 'We'll invite the President's Committee,' so when we invited the President's Committee (on the Arts and Humanities) all these key cultural officials came to El Paso, all (of them) and their Mexican counterparts and none of them had been here," she said.

She has forged friendships with powerful figures, including former First Lady Laura Bush. "I have had fun and I got to be with Laura at the White House several times and she would tell me 'El Paso is a place I long for.'"

On one of those trips, Laura Bush brought former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to El Paso and took him to the Mission in Juarez. 

"He had never crossed an international border as an ordinary Joe, he didn't know to declare citizenship. I had to teach him that," Adair said.

She remains focused on sharing the beauty of the border. As an art dealer, she's represented local artists like Manuel Acosta, Luis Jimenez, Jose Cisneros and Tom Lea.

"Art is about life and about being a whole human being," she told ABC-7 in 2011. "I think that when times are tough it's all the more important to enjoy art because it's what makes our lives beautiful."

Now, she has a new stage where she can share the love of and pride for the Borderland.

"I feel I will just be doing what I always do," Adair said.

But now, she'll shed a brighter light on it.

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