Latino State News
A Tribute to Dr Hector Perez Garcia- Someone We Think You Should Know
Photo: Dr. Hector Perez Garcia
All Hispanics should celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Hector Perez Garcia (1914-1996). Dr. Garcia was a Mexican American physician, surgeon, World War II veteran, founder of the American G.I. Forum, and a tenacious civil rights leader for the Mexican American community nationally. He has earned his place in American history, but few know how significant his work was in the civil rights movement.
BORN on JANUARY 17, 1914 in Llera, Tamaulipas state, Mexico to Jose and Faustina Perez Garcia. Jose and Faustina home schooled their seven children and instilled the importance of a good education. Dr. Garcia graduated as valedictorian of his high school class and graduated with honors from the University of Texas in 1936. In 1940 he earned is M.D. degree from the University of Texas medical school in Galveston, Texas.
VOLUNTEERING in 1942 for Army duty during WWII, he served as an infantry officer and a combat engineer officer. He was awarded a Bronze Star with six battle stars for his service on the battlefields. He was named alternate ambassador to the United Nations in 1967, appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1968, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor in 1984. He was named to the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II in 1990. Garcia died July 26, 1996.
DR. GARCIA’S birthday will be celebrated by members of Chicago’s Little Village Dr. Hector P. Garcia AMVETS Post 326, Manuel Perez Jr. American Legion Post 1017, Mexican American Veterans Association [MAVA], Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Little Village Community Council this Saturday, January 14th.
IN CELEBRATION of Dr. Hector P. Garcia memory a free showing of The Longoria Affair documentary will be featured at the Little Village Community Council, 3610 W. 26th St. Sat., Jan. 14th at 1 p.m. The showing is open to the public. The Longoria Affair, is a film by John J. Valadez of Private Felix Z. Longoria who died fighting the Japanese during World War II. When Longoria’s body was sent home to Three Rivers, Texas the only funeral parlor in town refused Longoria’s widow, Beatrice, the use of their chapel. The owner said, “the whites wouldn’t like it.” Dr. Garcia was contacted by the sister-in-law of Beatrice about the refusal of the funeral owner to wake her husband. Garcia sent out telegrams to many elected officials informing them about Longoria and U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson responded, became involved and took action.
“THE INCIDENT sparked national outrage and brought together two stubborn and savvy leaders, Senator Lyndon Johnson and activist Dr. Hector Garcia,” said Valadez. At that time, Lyndon Johnson was a principal at a Mexican elementary school in Cotulla, Texas 60 miles west of Three Rivers. Johnson wanted to make the school the best elementary school in Texas. “I see hunger in their eyes and pain in their bodies,” said Johnson. He used part of his first paycheck to buy sporting equipment for the kids at the school, organized spelling bees and a debate club. Lyndon Johnson had served in the Navy and was livid about the Felix Longoria incident and took it personal. By his involvement, U.S. Senator Johnson was instrumental in having Felix Longoria’s body buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which overlooks the Potomac River and Washington DC.
Hernandez is the nephew of Commander/Historian William Luna of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia AMVETS in Little Village. “The Longoria Affair” is a historical struggle in Mexican history. Everyone is welcomed and to join in the celebration of Dr. Hector Garcia; a Mexican American Hero.