Elections

More Cruz family drama: mother’s first husband is an ex-pat Texan in London

On Ted Cruz’s Canadian birth certificate, his mother is listed as Eleanor Darragh Wilson, using the last name of her first husband, Alan Wilson. The Fort Worth native and long-time resident of London, Wilson is now an unwitting player in the drama that surrounds Cruz’s family.

Wilson, who has never previously spoken about his past with the news media, told McClatchy in a telephone interview from London that he did not realize he was connected to the U.S. Texas senator, however indirect. He didn’t realize that his first wife, Eleanor, whose maiden name is Darragh, had such a well-known son, whose citizenship is at issue in the presidential campaign, or that “Wilson” is on the birth certificate.

“I’ll be darned,” said Wilson, who speaks in a soft tone with traces of his Texas origins. “No kidding. That is Eleanor’s son? I had no idea.” He said he knew that she “had married a man named Cruz” but little else and had not made the connection to the presidential candidate.

Cruz’s mother is at the center of an explosive issue in the GOP presidential primary, whether the Texas senator is eligible to be president. During Thursday night’s GOP debate, Cruz and New York billionaire Donald Trump battled over Cruz’s claim that he’s a “natural born” citizen, a requirement in the Constitution for any president.

Cruz relies on his mother’s U.S. citizenship for his “natural-born” status since his father, Rafael Cruz, held Cuban citizenship at the time of Ted Cruz’s birth.

During the debate, Cruz said it is “settled law” that a child born abroad of a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth and therefore “natural born.” But Trump disagreed, and legal experts differ on what the law provides. No U.S. president has ever been born outside the United States.

Wilson confirmed one fact critical to Cruz’s presidential campaign, that Cruz’s mother never became a British subject while she was working in London. Despite his many years in Britain, Wilson said he too never became a citizen of the United Kingdom.

Wilson makes a brief appearance in Cruz’s book, “A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America,” which was published last year.

“In 1956, my mom married her first husband, a mathematician named Alan Wilson,” Cruz wrote. The couple moved to London in 1960 after a few years working in the U.S., and Cruz revealed something of a bombshell: his mother had given birth to a son, Michael Wilson, in 1965, who had died a crib death later in the year.

Cruz wrote about his mother’s devastation: “Losing Michael to crib death broke my mother’s heart, and had a profound effect on her, so much so that I never even knew that I had had a brother until I was a teenager and my mother told me the story.”

Cruz added, “And the heartbreak also ended her marriage.”

Wilson, floored to learn that he was mentioned in Cruz’s book, said, in a bombshell of his own, that the account is not accurate: He was not the father of the baby.

“We were divorced and she was living on her own,” said Wilson. He said that Eleanor asked him if she could use his last name on the birth certificate. When Michael Wilson later died, he said, “I hadn’t even met the baby.”

Alan Wilson said by chance he and Eleanor Wilson were being treated in the same hospital when she was pregnant when a nurse told him “his wife” was there – startling the Fort Worthian. “I didn’t know she was pregnant. We were definitely divorced.”

Asked what went wrong, he said, “Marriages don’t always work. It wasn’t because of infidelities or anything like that.”

He said the time frame was around 1963 that they were divorced. Although Cruz in his book cites 1965 for Michael Wilson’s birth and death, London records obtained by McClatchy show that a Michael Wilson was born and died in 1966 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in Kensington, a London neighborhood.

Cruz’s mother did not return a phone message to her Houston home asking for comment.

Eleanor Wilson left England sometime after the death of Michael and returned to the United States, where she met Rafael Cruz, whom she married in 1969. Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970.

Told that Eleanor had used his last name on Ted Cruz’s birth certificate, Wilson said, “I see. That’s interesting.” Pressed to say how he felt about it, he said, “I don’t have any feelings about it.” He later wondered, “Why did she do that? Maybe she’s adopting that name for no reason.”

Asked about what he thought of Ted Cruz, Wilson said, “I don’t necessarily keep track of what’s going on in the States. . . I know nothing about it.” He said he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican and does not vote. “I’m not there,” he said.

Eleanor Darragh and Alan Wilson met at Rice University in Houston in the 1950s when she was studying mathematics and he was a Ph.D. student in mathematics. They married in 1956 after Eleanor, then 21, graduated from Rice. Wilson received three degrees from Rice: a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1949, a Masters in mathematics in 1956 and a Ph.D. in 1958. He also served in the Air Force after getting his bachelor’s degree.

Although Wilson lived in various places in Texas, he still remembers Fort Worth well. “I was born there – 15 years of memories,” he said.

Wilson was born at Fort Worth’s St. Joseph’s Infirmary, a now defunct hospital, in 1928 to locally well known parents, Joseph Alan Wilson and Burness Elizabeth Elliston. The father was in advertising and later became an oil executive and the couple lived on Irwin Avenue in the well-heeled Mistletoe Heights neighborhood.

Wilson went to the city’s R. L. Paschal High School but the family moved to Dallas and he spent his senior year at Highland Park High School where he graduated in 1945.

But because he still had friends at Paschal, he attended his class’s 50th reunion in 1995. “I saw Fort Worth as it had been transformed,” he said, adding it was the last time he saw the city.

Wilson had no children of his own, and was married two more times to English women. He is retired after a long career working with computers.

Asked if he would like to talk to his first wife, Wilson paused. “No, I don’t think so. I’m glad things are well. I would be glad to read about her. I wish her every happiness.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram research director Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.

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