Hernández Colón graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University and then the law school of the Universidad De Puerto Rico in 1959. He became a senator in 1968, and later ascended to become the senate's President.
Hernández Colón's party, the Popular Democratic Party, or Partido Popular Democratico (PPD), saw a lot of potential in the young political star, and made him their President and candidate for Governor in the 1972 elections. He decisively beat then Governor Luis A. Ferré, another Ponce native, to become, at 36, the youngest governor of Puerto Rico. Hernández Colón made an effort to get more international firms to invest in Puerto Rico and opposed President Gerald Ford's wishes to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.
Hernández Colón lost in 1976 to his political arch-enemy Carlos Romero Barcelo, and again in 1980. The 1980 elections, however, were the closest in history (Hernández Colón only lost by a 3,000 vote margin) and Hernández Colón was sure he'd win back his place as Governor in 1984. Once again, he won by a landslide and took office in January of the following year. This time around, Hernández Colón had to face different problems and situations, but the Puerto Rican public thought he did a good job and gave him their votes again in the 1988 election, although rival Baltazar Corrada Del Rio did decently on the polls.
Hernández Colón became a travelling governor during his third and last tenure as governor, and he sponsored trade contracts with such countries as Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain and Canada. His efforts to improve the ever changing Puerto Rican economy took him to all continents, and he also sponsored Puerto Rico's bid to get the 2004 Olympic Games. Hernández Colón and his wife returned to Puerto Rico after she was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away early in 2003.