Ruben Samuel Ayala, one of the most prominent politicians to arise out of Chino, passed away Wednesday, January 4, at the age of 89.
The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, he was born on March 6, 1922 to Mauricio and Ermina Martinez Ayala. He lived with his family on Chino’s Second Street and graduated from Chino High School in 1941 and attended Pomona Junior college in 1941 and 1942. From 1942 until 1946, Ayala served in the U.S. Marine Corps, participating in the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific.
Following extension courses at UCLA, he graduated from the National Electronic Institute in Los Angeles in 1948. For three years he worked as a field engineer for the Admiral Television Company in Los Angeles. From 1951 to 1954, he was assistant branch sales manager for the Homelite Corporation, manufacturers of small industrial construction equipment. From 1954 to 1964, he was an agent for the Farmers Insurance Group in Chino.
Ayala was member of the Chino School Board from 1955 until 1962, at which point he was elected to the Chino City Council. In 1964, he ran to become Chino’s first elected mayor. In November 1966, he was elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors from the Fourth District and served as chairman from 1968 to 1972. As a supervisor he championed flood control projects throughout the county, including channels in Chino, San Timoteo Canyon, Mission-Zanja, Cable, Wildwood, Wilson and Carbon Creek, Live Oak Canyon, Plunge and Elder creeks and the South Rialto, Reche Canyon and Cypress channels, facilities along the Santa Ana River, the City Creek and Mill Creek levees and the highly controversial Mentone Dam.
Re-elected to the board of supervisors in 1970, Ayala resigned in January 1974 when he was elected in a special election to the California State Senate representing the 32nd Senatorial District. He was subsequently reelected to the Senate six times, leaving in 1998 when he was forced out of office due to term limits.
A Democrat, Ayala in 1980 authored SB 200, legislation to expand the State Water Project by constructing a peripheral canal to transport water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The measure was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown but voters blocked it in a 1982 referendum.
In the Chino Unified School District, a high school is named after him. The city of Chino’s largest park is also named in his honor. The city of Rialto named a street after him in 1981.
His wife, Irene neé Morales, to whom he was married since 1945, predeceased him in 2008. He is survived by three sons; Maurice; Ruben, also known as “Buddy”; and Gary.
Assemblywoman Norma Torres, who now represents the Chino area, said the Ayala was an inspiration to the community.
“If you ever had the chance to meet and speak to the senator, you would’ve seen his passion for his family and the community he served,” Torres said.