Justice for My People The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story

Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story premiered September 2007.

Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story tells the story of Dr. Hector P. Garcia – Mexican Revolution refugee, medical doctor to the barrios, decorated war veteran, civil rights activist and presidential confidante - as he fought to bring attention to the Mexican American civil rights movement.

Hector in TexasReturning from World War II in 1946, Dr. Hector P. Garcia settled in Corpus Christi, Texas to begin his private medical practice.
Dr. Garcia's achievements are of historical importance. Through peaceful protest and legal recourse, he confronted the violators of the civil rights of "his people" at the same time that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked for equal rights for African Americans.

Returning to Texas after World War II with six battle stars, Garcia found that while Mexican American veterans had been changed by the war, prejudiced America had not. His people faced public school segregation, squalid living conditions in labor camps, and second-class citizenship. In 1948, Dr. Garcia founded the American GI Forum, empowering Mexican Americans to fight numerous legal and political battles against discrimination.

Like his classical namesake of the Trojan War, Dr. Hector Garcia charged the barricades of discrimination with a warrior's spirit. His "troops" were the members of the American GI Forum. Organized in a Corpus Christi, Texas elementary school classroom, the organization ultimately spread across the United States to open the locked gates of the "establishment".

As he championed the rights of Mexican Americans, his life would be threatened. He would overcome personal tragedy. He would refuse to be thwarted by political setbacks and disappointments. Instead, he chose to peacefully resist prejudice by building his life and work on the foundation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Those who worked with Dr. Hector P. Garcia knew him as "a man who in the space of one week delivers 20 babies, 20 speeches, and 20 thousand votes. He understands delivery systems in this country."

Hector's patientsDr. Garcia's patients were the poorest of the poor, as represented by this mother and five children seen in Garcia's office during the early 1950's.
Gradually, his efforts paid off. The end of the 1950s saw Texas movies, restaurants and hotels desegregated. By the 1960s, barbershops and beauty parlors were also open to Mexican Americans. However, he did not slacken his pace, for it was not until the 1970s that cemeteries and swimming pools were also desegregated.

In 1960, undeterred by death threats and agitator labels, Dr. Garcia entered the national political arena by co-founding the national VIVA KENNEDY clubs for the U.S. Presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

Acknowledging that the crucial Hispanic vote achieved by these clubs had turned the tide of the election, President Kennedy placated national Hispanic demands for greater participation by appointing Dr. Garcia ambassador to a West Indies treaty signing. Despite token appointments, the relationship between the Mexican-American people who campaigned for him remained unsatisfactory until JFK's death and Lyndon Johnson's rise to the White House in 1963.

In an era when Mexican Americans were not welcome to serve the public, American GI Forum member Vicente T. Ximenes was appointed to head President Johnson’s Inter-Agency Committee on Mexican American Affairs.

In 1967, President Johnson appointed Dr. Hector as an alternate ambassador to the United Nations, where he gave the first speech by an American before the UN in a language other than English. The next year Garcia was sworn in as the first Mexican American to serve on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Dr. Garcia continued to be active under the Carter Administration by attending high-level White House briefings on humanitarian issues.

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan awarded Dr. Hector P. Garcia the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the President of the United States. He was the first Mexican-American to receive the honor.

In July 1996, Dr. Hector P. Garcia died in Corpus Christi. While his personal story ended on that day, his legacy lives on today. Dr. Garcia has earned his place in American history, but few know how significant his work was.

Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story illuminates the critical issues of each decade through Dr. Hector Garcia's personal experience. Twenty on-camera interviews were recorded with scholars, contemporaries, and adversaries to place each incident in context. History is brought to life by interviews with men and women who worked with Garcia during those crucial years, offering personal insights into life as an American minority.

Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story was produced by KEDT, South Texas Public Broadcasting. For more information, please visit http://www.justiceformypeople.org/.

 

Produced by:

KEDT

Funding for Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story was provided by Public Television Viewers, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Filemon & Rose Vela, H-E-B, CC Distributors, Inc., a contribution from George Finley in Memory of Sue Sellors Finley, Southwestern Bell Foundation, Oscar Wyatt, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, Summerlee Foundation, The Latino Public Broadcasting Project, The National Educational Telecommunications Association, CPL, American Bank, TSE Equities, Ltd., Tony Canales, and others. A complete list of funders is available at http://justiceformypeople.org/funding.html.

Images courtesy of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Special Collections, Bell Library, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

 
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