Tony Castro is a Baylor and Harvard-educated historian, Napoleonic and Hemingway scholar, and the bestselling author of eight books, including the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power, which Publishers Weekly praised as “brilliant… a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time.”
His biography Looking for Hemingway: Spain, the Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage was named one of the best books of 2016 by National Public Radio. The New York Times has called Castro the foremost biographer of baseball icon Mickey Mantle. His Mantle literary quadrilogy includes the current bestselling history of the 1960s Maris & Mantle: Two Yankees, Baseball Immortality, and the Age of Camelot. He is presently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte and a book about America, nostalgia and faith.
Castro was the first recipient of the Charles Johnson Journalism Scholarship, named in honor of the first chairman of Baylor's Journalism Department. He was in the Baylor Class of 1969, though he it was an unusual undergraduate experience. Tony passed up working on The Lariat when the Waco Tribune Herald offered him a full-time reporting position while he was still a senior at Reicher High School. In 1967, in the summer before his junior year, Castro traveled with New Left activists from the Students for a Democratic Society and the Chicano movement on an unauthorized 10-day trip to U.S.-sanctioned communist Cuba, where they met with the country's premier, Fidel Castro. Tony was also among the first reporters in America to write extensively about race in presidential politics, reporting on Bobby Kennedy's quixotic 1968 campaign in the Mexican American barrios of California, which became a centerpiece of his book Chicano Power, published by E.P. Dutton in 1974.
Castro was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1976–77, where he completed graduate work on the Age of Napoleon under French history scholars Laurence Wylie and Stanley and Inge Hoffmann and studied comparative literature under Homeric scholar Robert Fitzgerald and Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. While at Harvard he also taught classes on Chicano Studies and the New Journalism and lectured on Latino Politics at the Kennedy Institute of Politics. By then too, Castro's book Chicano Power had become part of the curriculum required reading list in Chicano and Latino Studies classes at numerous colleges and universities in the country. Today he is considered one of the leading experts on Latino politics in America.
As a journalist, Castro was the Southwest correspondent for the Washington Post in the 1970s. He was also a reporter and producer for Newsroom, the celebrated Public Broadcasting Service show founded by NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer for Dallas station KERA. He was awarded Peabody and duPont awards for documentaries on the Alamo and the Chicano civil rights movement. Tony went on to be become a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, and political reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News. He reported on every presidential campaign from 1964 through 2012, winning political reporting awards from the Headliners Club and the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation. Tony also covered the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador for the Hearst newspapers, which published his stories in English and Spanish. His reporting from Central America was a Pulitzer Prize international reporting finalist and won reporting awards from the Los Angeles Press Club and the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.
Tony and his wife Renee LaSalle live in Los Angeles. Their two grown sons also reside in Southern California.
“You might say that Baylor Journalism did for me and my career what Noah did for shipbuilding — it opened a world of unimagined opportunities. Baylor and its famed journalism professor David McHam are responsible for everything good that has happened to me personally and professionally. I first met David while I was in high school in 1962, and he changed my life. He has been such an inspirational friend, teacher, and mentor that I dedicated CHICANO POWER, the first of my eight books, to him. McHam and my junior high school classmates and friends Dick and Bette McCall, children of then Baylor President Abner V McCall, were about the only people in my youth who ever believed that I had the talent to become a writer and author, or that I would even ever attend Baylor or any other college. Maybe it was all destined by higher forces. My childhood home in the 1950s was at 1618 South Fourth St. in Waco, which is almost the identical spot where today the Allbritton House, the university president’s residence, is situated in the expanded modern Baylor campus.
"What are the odds of that happening? Especially from where I come. I was the first in my extended family not to drop out of high school. My father, a decorated World War II army veteran, played professional baseball in the Mexican leagues; my mother, a dressmaker of wedding and prom gowns, insisted that her rail-thin son wear the creations of organza, tulle, and satin adorned with sequins, rhinestones, and embroidered appliqués while she made alterations. Years later, I performed a comedy act in drag on the Sunset Strip, opening with the line: 'My life as a woman began in a quinceañera dress.’
"After World War II, my paternal grandfather relocated his entire family to Waco, and there on North Second Street near the Brazos River bought a huge, dilapidated Victorian house that had been a notorious brothel at the turn of the century. I was born there, in a former madam’s bedroom. In my youth, my parents nearly had heart attacks when they learned that I was going around Texas bragging that I had been born in a scandalous bordello. They were especially upset because I had grown up in part on Fourth Street just a block off the Baylor campus in the heart of the Bible Belt. Imagine, though, the shock at high school interscholastic league competitions when the first six words out of my mouth were “I was born in a whorehouse.” Six words, and I was halfway home to a speech tournament medal. That is how desperately I wanted to be a writer.
"I am third generation Tejano on one side of my family — my paternal grandfather fought with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution — and fifth generation on the other. My maternal great great grandfather was a colonel in the Confederate army, the highest ranking Mexican American to fight for the South in the Civil War. I grew up bilingual, bi-cultural, and religiously bi-polar — I was both Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic. But I quoted too much Protestant scripture for a good Catholic, and I knew too many saints and too much Latin for an acceptable Baptist. In a sense then, perhaps I am all the wonderful contradictions and incongruities that make Baylor God's Chosen University and Baylor Journalism along with it.”