CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — He was an immigrant turned American hero. He was a World War II veteran, civil rights activist, medical doctor and founder of the American GI Forum.
That is just part of Dr. Hector P. Garcia's legacy that has inspired, and continues to inspire, future generations.
Garcia's daughter, Cecilia Garcia-Akers, has dedicated her life to continuing her father's legacy.
"He spent over 50 years of his life helping people, helping veterans, helping people who were sick, helping people get an education, navigate through the educational process which can be difficult," Garcia-Akers said. "But also, the veterans who were coming back weren't getting their benefits. He really helped them for over 50 years."
As a champion for immigrant's rights, we asked his daughter how Dr. Garcia would feel about the migrants being bused to different cities for political gain.
"I think that he would be very angry because no one is taking care of them, and moving them from one state to another isn't solving a problem," Garcia-Akers said. "I know people think it's bringing it to the forefront, the attention, but it really isn't. To me, it is very illegal and abusive and I think he would agree with me."
In 1948, Garcia founded the American GI Forum, which organized veterans to fight for educational and medical benefits, and later, against poll taxes and school segregation. Garcia fought his whole life for the inclusion of Mexican-Americans into mainstream America.
In 1984, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. He was the first Mexican-American to receive the honor.
The third Wednesday of September has been designated Hector P. Garcia Day in Texas. To celebrate, Del Mar College is holding a luncheon Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 11:30 a.m. at the Emergency Training Building on Old Brownsville and Airport Rds.
There will also be several events at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi during Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate Dr. Garcia.
Sept. 21 – Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day Celebration: The third Wednesday of September is observed as Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day. Come out to Garcia Plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., to celebrate the significant contributions of Dr. Hector P. Garcia. Enjoy learning about his impact on campus and in the community, listening to mariachis and having cupcakes (while supplies last). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 27-Oct. 2 – Dr. Hector P. Garcia Play: In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Department of Theatre & Dance presents the world premiere of a new play about the life and legacy of civil rights icon Dr. Hector P. Garcia from Tuesday, Sept. 27, to Sunday, Oct. 2, in Warren Theater, Center for the Arts. Written by visiting guest artist, professional playwright Iraisa Ann Reilly, the play’s cast features numerous Island University students, and is directed by Assistant Professor Marco Muñoz. The play dramatizes the story of Corpus Christi’s own “Dr. Hector.” You may pass by his statue every day, but how much do you really know about him? He was a veteran and hero to some, a rabblerousing troublemaker to others, and a simple family physician to an entire community. Come and learn about the world-changing events that happened right here in our own back yard. Visit the Department of Theatre & Dance website for ticketing information.
Garcia’s impact still being seen to this day, the Hector P. Garcia clinic is one of the many places in the Coastal Bend bearing his name and his daughter says it’s a fitting tribute.
“They're helping everyone who may not have insurance they can go in and get healthcare," Garcia-Akers previously told 3NEWS. "That's just the way my father practiced medicine, so the fact that they wanted to name it after him was so appropriate."