Hugh Holub, colorful former Nogales city attorney and Nogales International columnist, died early Monday after losing a nearly month-long battle with pneumonia. He was 65.
A jokester through and through, Holub was kidding with the staff at St. Mary’s Hospital on the last night of his life, said his daughter Annie Holub.
“The nurse wouldn’t let him have any water when he was admitted,” she said. “He told her that she should be a great director for Tucson Water because of the way she conserved his.”
These were his last words, Annie Holub said.
“Hugh was a unique individual,” said Jose Machado, current Nogales city attorney. “He never hesitated to speak his mind. He was a good friend and good attorney.”
Holub, founder of the “Baja Arizona” movement that half-jokingly proposed Southern Arizona succeed from the rest of the state, was born in Victoria, Texas in 1946 to a Jewish mother and Catholic father. In Texas, the Ku Klux Klan used to burn crosses in the family’s front yard, Annie Holub said. He reflected on the experience in an Aug. 3, 2010 column for the NI titled “Sometimes it’s better if you don’t go home again.”
The Holubs moved to Southern Arizona when Hugh was 8 to take care of his grandfather. He later graduated from Tucson High School and the University of Arizona.
Holub’s writing career began in 1965 when he founded The Frumious Bandersnatch, one of the nation’s first satirical newspapers. While attending the University of Arizona in 1966, he was a staff reporter for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. By 1967, Holub reported for the Tucson Citizen. However, as his bio on the Bandersnatch website states, he “was fired due to a ‘lack of a proper sense of immediacy,’ which prompted him to enroll in law school, where immediacy is not a virtue.”
After receiving his law degree from U of A’s James E. Rogers School of Law, Holub ran his own law firm from 1978 to 1997. He worked as city attorney for Nogales from 1997 to 2000, and was later rehired by the city for a one-year stint as public works interim utilities director from 2006 to 2007.
A proponent of water rights in Southern Arizona, he was able to obtain a $60 million grant for the City of Nogales from the North American Development Bank and the EPA to upgrade the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant. He also helped state legislators create the Santa Cruz Active Management Area – the most sustainable water management area in Arizona.
Following his tenure at the city, the self-described “semi-retired lawyer” decided to do only “healing legal work” and ended up unemployed, according to his Bandersnatch bio.
Active in border issues, Holub led tours of the local border area for politicians and other visitors. He spoke out against the racism he saw among some elements of anti-illegal immigration movemnt, and tirelessly advocated for the rights of border ranchers, whom he viewed as victims of the federal government’s failed security strategy. In January 2011, he established the Center for Sustainable Development, a legal advocacy organization meant to defend ranchers from what he called “misinformation put out by environmental groups.”
Holub began writing a column for the Nogales International under the pseudonym J. Ross Brown II in 2006. Two years later, he started a new column for the NI titled “On the line,” which he penned under his own name. It appeared on alternate Tuesdays.
He filed his last column, in which he urged the City of Nogales to annex land to its north, on Friday at 5:04 p.m. “Have been down with pneumonia the last little while,” he wrote in a email. “Just finally getting back into the world.”
Holub is survived his wife, Nancy Valentine; his daughters Annie and Beth; and three sisters.
The family will hold a celebration of Holub’s life at the Copper Room at the Historic Hotel Congress on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to share memories of Hugh and bring musical instruments to play because he loved music, said Annie Holub.
Holub’s last wishes were to be cremated and scattered along the Santa Cruz River near his home in Tubac, Annie Holub said.