Dr. Hector P. Garcia papers
Documentation on Dr. Garcia’s personal life, including his education, hobbies, family, speeches, appearances at events, and paper awards, may be found in Series I: Personal Files. His personal and professional correspondence is spread throughout the collection, with the most concentrated volume located in Series II: Correspondence. A limited amount of information on his military training and activities in the European Theatre of World War II is documented in Series III: Military Service. Series IV: Private Medical Practice contains a small volume of records regarding his activities as a physician in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Dr. Garcia’s participation in the founding, administration, and expansion of the AGIF, along with the activities and interests of its membership, can be found in the Series V: American GI Forum (AGIF). Furthermore, Series VI: Latino Activism highlights his general activities as an activist defending the rights of Mexican Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other Spanish-speaking ethnic groups. His participation as a member of various boards, committees, and organizations as well as his activities as an advisor to several United States Presidents is documented in Series VII: Civilian Service.
Series VIII: Reference and Research Files contains clippings, publications, and other secondary source materials on a wide variety of people, organizations, and topics of interest to Dr. Garcia. There is an extensive amount of photographs, negatives, slides, and albums in Series IX: Photographic Materials that illustrate many of the personal and professional activities documented in the rest of the collection. Audio and video recordings featuring Dr. Garcia and others are located in Series X: Audiovisual Media. Finally, personal and professional artifacts Dr. Garcia collected during his lifetime, including a substantial number of awards and AGIF-related items, can be found in Series XI: Artifacts.
- 1910 - 2015
- Majority of material found within 1943 - 1996
- Garcia, Hector P., 1914-1996 (Person)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
359.56 Linear Feet
In 1932, Garcia graduated from Mercedes High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Texas at Austin and in 1936 was accepted into the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, a program that only accepted one Mexican American student per year. Unable to find an internship at a Texas hospital because of his ethnicity, Garcia completed his residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. As a student, Garcia sought to serve the local Hispanic community, spearheading a community group in Galveston that offered medical services to people in need. This became a model for his decades-long medical career.
When Garcia completed his residency in 1942, the United States was at war. A participant in Citizens Military Training Camps (predecessor to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC) since age 15, Garcia entered active duty and served with the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Europe and North Africa during World War II. He received several commendations for outstanding service and achieved the ranks of captain in 1942 and major in 1947. While stationed in Naples, Italy, Garcia met Wanda Fusillo, a young Italian woman who worked as a secretary at the local port authority. Hailing from an aristocratic family, Wanda received a doctorate in humanities from the University of Naples. After a short courtship, the couple married in Naples on June 23, 1945. They settled in Corpus Christi, Texas, where they raised four children: Daisy, Hector Jr., Cecilia, and Susie.
Back in Texas, Garcia established a medical practice and focused on serving Corpus Christi’s Hispanic community. He experienced firsthand how discrimination and poverty affected the lives of the people for whom he cared, including veterans who did not have full access to benefits they had earned through military service. He joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civic group that addressed issues such as education and healthcare, but felt that LULAC did not do enough for veterans in particular. On March 26, 1948, he convened a meeting for veterans at a local elementary school to address the issues they faced. There, he became a founding member and the president of a veterans’ advocacy group called the American GI Forum (AGIF).
The AGIF’s mission and geographic reach quickly expanded. When in 1949 a funeral home in Three Rivers, Texas, refused to host a service for Private Felix Longoria, who was killed in action during World War II, Garcia organized a massive AGIF protest that attracted national attention. Over time, the organization took on new causes, speaking out on issues ranging from education and voting rights to the welfare of migrant workers. With Garcia at its helm for over four decades, the AGIF became a powerful voice for Mexican American civil rights. By the 1960s, the AGIF had chapters nationwide.
Garcia’s dedication to his community extended beyond Corpus Christi. He became an advocate for Mexican American and Hispanic rights on the national and international levels. In 1960, he became an outspoken supporter of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. The Viva Kennedy clubs that he organized helped Kennedy win 85 percent of the Latino vote in the election. In the decades that followed he continued to back local, state, and national candidates who upheld his values and supported civil rights. Garcia also became a valuable advisor to President Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and several of their successors.
In 1967, President Johnson appointed Garcia an alternate delegate to the United Nations. On October 26 of that year, he delivered a historic address to the UN General Assembly. His statement, given in Spanish, marked the first time an American representative addressed the Assembly in a language other than English.
Garcia received many honors and awards for his tireless efforts. Several sites—including parks, schools, a post office, and the Hector P. Garcia Plaza on the campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi—have been named for him. Cities, states, and foreign countries presented him with awards for his service. He received the Orden de Vasco Nunez de Balboa award from Panama for his exemplary diplomatic work, as well as the Aguila Azteca from Mexico, the highest honor awarded to foreigners. On March 26, 1984, President Ronald Reagan presented Garcia with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making him the first Mexican American to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor.
National efforts and responsibilities never detracted from Garcia’s commitment to his community. With the help of his sister, Dr. Clotilde Garcia, he continued to run his medical practice, ensuring that patients in Corpus Christi had access to quality, affordable health care. Garcia participated in protests and marches into the 1980s and 1990s, and dedicated himself to exposing the poor conditions of the colonias, migrant labor camps on the Mexican border.
Garcia died on July 26, 1996. He is remembered today as one of the most dedicated and impactful Mexican American civil rights activists. In 1982, he and his wife began to donate his papers to Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Wanda continued that effort and remained dedicated to preserving and celebrating her husband’s work until her death on September 20, 2008. The surviving Garcia children have since assumed responsibility for their father’s legacy. His daughter, Cecilia, and her husband, Jim Akers, established the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation in 2012.
- American G.I. Forum
- Armed Forces--Minorities
- Chicano movement
- Civil rights
- Corpus Christi Independent School District (Tex.)
- De Anda, James
- Discrimination in education
- Discrimination in employment
- Education, Bilingual
- English-only movement
- Frito-Lay, Inc.
- Garcia, Clotilde P.
- Garcia, Hector P., 1914-1996
- Hispanic Americans
- Hispanic Americans--Economic conditions
- Hispanic Americans--Education
- Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
- Immigration enforcement
- Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
- Latin Americans--Civil rights
- Latin Americans--Employment
- League of United Latin American Citizens
- Longoria, Felix Z., Jr., 1920-1945
- Mexican Americans
- Mexican Americans--Civil Rights
- Mexican Americans--Economic conditions
- Mexican Americans--Segregation
- Migrant labor
- Minority students
- Peña, Domingo
- Police brutality
- Race discrimination
- Shriver, Sargent, 1915-2011
- Spanish Americans (Latin America)
- Texas -- Naval Air Station Corpus Christi
- United Nations
- United States Commission on Civil Rights. Texas State Advisory Committee
- United States. Circuit Courts
- United States. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Vietnam War (1961-1975)
- World War II
- Ximenes, Vicente
- Guide to the Dr. Hector P. Garcia papers
- History Associates Incorporated
- Description rules
- Language of description
Part of the Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Repository
6300 Ocean Dr.
Corpus Christi TX 78412 United States