A Spanish military man by family tradition -his father was a general in the Civil Guard-, veteran of the African campaigns, wounded during the Moroccan War and, from 1936, after actively participating in the preparation of the coup against the Republic, in charge of directing the repression in Granada from his position as civil governor in permanent contact with Gonzalo Queipo de Llano. Valdés, old shirt (during the Franco dictatorship, those Falange members prior to the 1936 elections were called camisas viejas) and head of the Falange militias, played a leading role in the arrest and death of Federico García Lorca and thousands of left-wing sympathizers. Investigations suggest that Valdés was the one who gave the order to assassinate the poet after consulting by telephone with General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano who responded with a coded phrase: “Give him coffee, lots of coffee.” (CAFE [coffee in Spanish] was the acronym for the political slogan Camaradas Arriba Falange Española [Comrades Up Spanish Falange]).
Old Shirt and head of the Falange militias, he played a leading role as civil governor of Granada in the arrest and death of Federico García Lorca and thousands of leftist sympathizers.
After the announcement of the uprising, José Valdés is put in command of a group of soldiers from the various barracks of Granada, he heads with them to the Gobierno Civil, located in Duquesa Street, in the current Law School, He dismissed without violence the republican governor, César Torres Martínez -who had been in office for only a few days-, and appointed himself governor with Queipo’s consent.
The following month nearly 600 people were shot in the cemetery of Granada, among them the socialist mayor, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos. Together with Captain José Nestares, delegate of Public Order, and the Chief of Police, Julio Romero Funes, he goes on the hunt for left-wing sympathizers. In Víznar and Alfacar, the line of the Front that remained under the command of Nestares, thousands of people died, among them García Lorca and eminent professors of the University like the dean, Salvador Vila or the professor of Law and politician Joaquín García Labella.
His responsibility in the shooting of García Lorca has been verified by various testimonies and historians, and nuanced by others. The first version points out that it was Valdés who authorized Ramón Ruiz Alonso, former deputy of the CEDA party and declared enemy of García Lorca, to go to home of the family of the poet Luis Rosales and proceed to his arrest with the excuse of a complaint of murky and implausible origin. Lorca had taken refuge there on August 9 after the searches carried out by Falangists at his home, Huerta de san Vicente.
Lorca is arrested at the Rosales’ house on the afternoon of August 16 and taken, in the middle of a large police deployment, to the neighboring Gobierno Civil where he is confined in a small room, now demolished, containing a square table, an armchair and a couple of chairs. There he is seen by several people, among them José Rosales. Valdés was out of town and returned in the evening.
While Federico remains detained, some of the Rosales brothers, in particular José and Luis, deploy all their influence to try to free him. On the same day, the 16th, Luis Rosales appeared in the afternoon, on his return from the front, at the Gobierno Civil and demanded to see Valdés, who at that moment was absent. That night there is a bitter confrontation between Luis and Ruiz Alonso, the person who arrested Federico. The other Rosales brother, José, Pepiniqui, waits for Valdés to return and has another serious dispute with him. According to his own confession, he pushed his way into the office and wielded a gun and pointed it at him. Lorca is probably transferred in the early morning of the 17th to La Colonia in Víznar and shot and buried in an unknown place between Alfacar and Víznar.
Valdés resigned as governor in April 1937 to rejoin the Army. He died of cancer complicated by a war wound in Granada in 1939. The Granada City Council, after the war, named a central street Commander Valdés, whose name prevailed until the democratic corporation of 1979 replaced it with its pre-war name, Almona del Campillo.