JACKSONVILLE — Wherever Rafael Cruz goes, controversial headlines tend to follow — but so does the reverence from conservative Republicans who regard this clergyman as something of a visionary.
Known for delivering impassioned, albeit sometimes-controversial speeches, Cruz is an evangelical pastor. He is also the father (and, possibly, the strongest supporter) of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The pastor will be the guest speaker at the Cherokee County Republican Club meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tues. Dec. 10 at the Woodmen of the World Building, 1800 College St. His as-yet-unannounced topic is expected to be both informative and entertaining, Club President Jean Brewer said.
Ted Cruz is best known as the Texas Republican and Tea Party favorite being touted as a 2016 presidential contender. But his father, Rafael Cruz, is also considered "on-the-rise" and a conservative star in his own right.
Fans flock to the elder Cruz's Facebook page.
"Thank you for being so passionate about God, freedom and our country, sir," said one of Pastor Cruz's Facebook friends. "You are moving mountains. I had goosebumps at your speech yesterday. God bless you and all your family!"
Rafael Cruz was born in Cuba more than 55 years ago. He fought in the revolution against an oppressive communist regime, and was imprisoned and subsequently tortured. Fleeing, he immigrated to America.
According to his public biography, Rafael Cruz arrived in Texas in 1957 with nothing but the clothes on his back and $100 sewn into his underwear.
Through manual labor jobs, he learned English, then worked his way through the University of Texas. He built a small business and ultimately became active in conservative politics during the 1980 Presidential Campaign of Ronald Reagan, reports show.
Now, a North Texas pastor, Rafael Cruz serves as the Director of Purifying Fire Ministries, ministering in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America, his profile shows.
Where he goes, controversy follows. Rafael Cruz most recently came under fire when a Huffington Post story reported he had called black and Hispanic voters "uninformed" and "deceived" during a February address. Rafael Cruz also was criticized for describing President Barack Obama as an "outright Marxist" and proclaiming he should be sent "back to Kenya."
However, Rafael Cruz's followers adore him. An August National Review story focusing on Ted and Rafael Cruz described the elder as “a conservative force” ever since he started campaigning for his son's 2012 Senate race.
A phone number for Cruz could not immediately be located Monday to request comment. A Facebook message to his account requesting an interview was not immediately returned.
Brewer said she first met Pastor Cruz and his wife at a Republican convention awhile back.
"Once you meet him, you know where his son got his spine," she said. "He is a very gracious man who has a very interesting story to tell. We are very honored to hear him speak."
The Republican Club invited Cruz as parts of its ongoing initiative to keep people informed about the upcoming election, Brewer said.
"Our goal is to keep our people at the grass roots level of county and city informed," she said.
To inquire about his Pastor Cruz's local appearance, contact Brewer at 903-683-9543 or 903-393-8791.