At the time Daryl Castillo was growing up in south Dallas, the Bronco Bowl was the landmark where teens and young adults gathered to bowl, watch a band and have a good time.
It was there a 17-year-old Castillo attended a rally at the invitation of his neighbor, a Republican Party precinct chair, where presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was making an appearance in the summer of 1976. Through the crowd of 2,000 attendees, Reagan shook Castillo’s hand. It was the hand shake that set the course of Castillo’s life.
“He comes out of the limo, and if you never saw him in person, he was a very big, barrel chested man, kind of like in the genre of John Wayne,” Castillo said recalling that day nearly 40 years ago. “That’s what impresses you, his physique. I will never forget this. He was wearing a typical California blazer, and it was so loud you had to wear sun glasses to see it. It was one of those weird patterns. He had an open collar and was jolly. It was a hot summer day.
“I was impressed with the guy personally because he shook my hand. He came across very personable, like everybody’s grandfather. I was hooked.”
Castillo wasn’t even old enough to vote when the Presidential election rolled around. He turned 18 just a few weeks after Reagan won the presidency.
Castillo’s first political job was on the congressional staff for US Congressman James Collins. Known as “Mr. Conservative,” Collins was one of three representatives from the state of Texas who was a Republican.
“At the time, in the late ‘70s, to be a Republican in the State of Texas took a lot of bravery,” Castillo said. “It was heavily dominated by Democrats, and to be an ethnic minority and a Republican was a double whammy. People thought I had sold out.”
His first day on the job, Castillo was asked to summarize a lengthy defense bill. After reading the summary, Collins asked Castillo if he should vote for it.
“No one elected me to Congress, yet here is the guy on that committee asking me for my opinion,” Castillo said. “It’s an experience you take with you the rest of your life.”
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Castillo worked for Collins for about two years as his special assistant responsible for the formulation of defense policy position papers. He left the job as a specialist in Soviet military affairs.
Then, in 1981, Castillo was walking the halls of the White House headed toward the human resources office to complete paperwork for the newly-created position of Public Liaison for Hispanic Affairs. Along the way he ran into Michael Deaver, who was with Reagan in Dallas on that day in 1976.
“He said, ‘You’re Daryl from Oak Cliff,’” Castillo recalled. After a short conversation Deaver told Castillo to come with him. “We’re walking down the hall, and I said, ‘If we go any further we’re going to be in the West Wing.’ And we did.”
Deaver was the Deputy Chief of Staff for the White House at the time. They sat in his office to continue their conversation. At his request, Castillo updated Deaver on his life since they met at the Bronco Bowl, and his many political degrees impressed Deaver.
During that time in history, the US was considering the MX missile basing plan. The idea was to use densely packed missiles in ultra-enforced, hardened underground silos that would “fratricide” any incoming Soviet warheads by destroying not only the first incoming missile but also destroy or deflect any others behind it.
Deaver asked Castillo for his opinion on the concept. Castillo called it “fly paper” and said he didn’t take it as a serious option. Deaver immediately called in Dr. John Lenczowski, the Director of Soviet Affairs for the National Security Council. He introduced the two and told Castillo, “You’re his new assistant.” He never did make it to HR for the liaison position.
At the young age of 23, Castillo was working as a key player in the Reagan White House as the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs where he developed position papers forecasting and analyzing the Soviet and Warsaw Pact military capabilities.
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After his days in the White House came to an end, Castillo ventured into several projects and hit gold in 1996 when he became partners in Sonic Research Corporation, a company developing a sonic device to clean out oil wells. Around 2000, Halliburton offered to buy the company out of the Middle East Market for $250 million.
With his cut of the proceeds, Castillo was set for a luxurious retirement. But he wasn’t content playing golf and managing his partnership in the company. Castillo also enjoys sharing his first-hand experience in government.
Castillo taught government in the Dallas County Community College District from 1989 to 2006 and from 2006 to 2013 in the Tarrant County College District.
He admits that every day during the first semester he taught college he wore a full suit and filled the chalk board from top to bottom. When a student, amazed by his enthusiasm, asked Castillo how long he’d been a teacher, he replied that it was his first year.
“They probably thought, ‘Oh, great! There goes my GPA,” Castillo laughed.
When long-time Weatherford College instructor Brad Tibbitts retired, Castillo reached out to him via a phone call. They two chatted for a while and Tibbitts answered Castillo’s questions about what it was like to work at Weatherford College.
Castillo wanted to move further west to assist his aging and ailing mother, with whom he was incredibly close. So close in fact, he brought her to his job interview. She sat in the lobby and after the interview greeted the hiring panel.
When Castillo was offered the job he was told it was on three counts: Tibbitts, after only speaking with him the one time, provided him with a high recommendation; they enjoyed seeing his connection with his mother; and he was highly qualified.
Castillo has worked as in an instructor at WC since the fall of 2013 and his students greatly enjoy his class, especially first-hand stories of his days in the White House. And when he discusses the Cold War with his students he does so as a primary source.
“For me it’s not just theory, I was a practitioner,” Castillo said. “I think I bring value added to the classroom and to Weatherford College from my background.”
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